Where Would Oklahoma Schools Be Without Stimulus Money?

Wednesday, August 11th 2010, 9:49 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

BROKEN ARROW, OK -- Schools across the state will be doing more with less this year. And that's why President Obama signed a bill Tuesday night that could mean $119 million more dollars for Oklahoma education.

But some parents say they don't need a bailout. They call it a stop-gap solution borrowed on the backs of the very children it's supposed to help.

"Well it didn't surprise me, however I was very disappointed," Ronda Vuillemont-Smith, Broken Arrow parent, said.

President Obama signed a multi-billion dollar jobs bill aimed at saving teachers' jobs. Ronda Vuillemont-Smith wants Oklahoma to say thanks, but no thanks.

"To encourage Brad Henry because he's leaving. He's gone. To not accept this money," she said.

The state has already taken about $360 million in federal stimulus money for education. Oklahoma educators report districts used the money to pay for more than 4,100 teachers and 400 other jobs, last school year.

Even with federal help, teaching staffs have shrunk and class sizes are expected to balloon.

7/28/2010 Related Story: Oklahoma Educators Face Real Challenges As School Year Approaches

"Right now, it looks like some of our classes are going to be larger," one educator said.

"Some classes where you've maybe previously been able to keep them at a low level, 21, 22, kids, I think you're probably looking at 30 kids," another educator said.

But this mother of three Broken Arrow school students says we shouldn't have taken any of it.

"None, no," Vuillemont-Smith said. "Let us, let us figure it out."

If the federal government had not stepped in, Broken Arrow Schools would be down $6.5 million, or about 84 teachers.

Tulsa Public Schools would be down $23 million, or 292 teachers.

When TPS discussed cutting hundreds of teachers last March, they projected the average third grade class would grow from 20 to 22 students. Without the stimulus-paid 292 teachers, those class sizes could have grown to 24 students.

Smith said there are other ways to balance the budget.

"You can cut the salaries of the administration, you can cut a lot of administrative jobs, you can get back to the basics," she said.

Smith said whipping out the federal charge card only delays the inevitable.

"But who pays for that? Where does it end?" she asked. "Where does it stop? Where's the stopping point?"

State education leaders expect to find out more details Thursday about the new federal dollars and how they could be distributed to Oklahoma schools.