After Budget Cuts, Tulsa Parents Raise Money To Pay Teacher's Salary

Wednesday, May 16th 2012, 6:45 pm
By: Emory Bryan

Tulsa parents are raising money to pay school teachers to avoid some cuts being forced by lawmakers.

There's still no agreement on the state budget and no sign education will get an increase regardless.

Brian Banfield is a third-grade science teacher at Eliot Elementary, but he might not be here next year.

His position was cut out of the budget for the second time.

Last year, he was moved when Tulsa closed 14 schools the district couldn't afford to keep open.

"When I entered the field, I never thought this would be an issue, I blindly thought, I suppose, that we would always need teachers," Banfield said.

The loss of another teacher in an already crowded school was too much for the PTA.

They've launched an urgent fundraiser to pay Banfield's $42,000 salary themselves.

"This is not a sustainable solution to adequate funding for education," PTA president Stephanie Coates said. "This is a last-ditch, give-til-it-hurts, dig-into-the-pocketbook-for-change, way to provide a quick solution that we hope will be a patch until next year."

Even if the PTA can save the science teacher's job, Eliot will still lose a half day of education from a popular art teacher.

She's going to have to use that time to teach social studies.

And that's because the social studies teacher is being cut from full time to part time, which is shifting other teachers into other subjects.

"I applaud parents for taking this role," Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard said. "I don't think they should have to, but if the legislature is not going to step up and do their job, then parents are willing to do it. I never thought I would see something like this is my career."

With just two days of school left, the school district, and hundreds of affected teachers, cannot make any plans beyond Friday.

"I don't whether to pack up and be ready for a move or keep things as they are," Banfield said.

These individual fundraising efforts could not only save jobs, but also create a disparity between schools with parents who can - and cannot - afford to privately fund public education.

This comes as the governor's office said today there's $350 million of unexpected tax revenue just since January.

Education officials say $50 million would be enough to avoid all teacher cuts for the entire state.