Tulsa Public Schools: Despite Budget Deal, Cuts Still Necessary

Thursday, May 20th 2010, 6:11 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6   

TULSA, OK – Under the budget agreement reached Thursday by Democratic Governor Brad Henry and Republican leaders of the state House and state Senate, common education will be cut 2.9 percent, much smaller than expected.

5/20/2010 Related Story: Details of FY 2011 Oklahoma Budget Agreement Deal Released

But school leaders are quick to point out this budget deal may not be as rosy as it seems. They're still facing a school year down millions from where they started last year.

See How The Budget Breaks Down

So cuts are still necessary. And some parents are questioning some of those budget decisions.

Bethany King says there's something special about first grade and the little miracles that can happen in just a year.

"A lot of them just have the basic skills of letters and letter sounds and by the end of the year you have fluent readers," King said. "That's the biggest joy for me. That's why I love first grade, just the reading aspect."

King says she may have to forsake her passion. Despite eight years of teaching experience she's been told she won't have a job next year.

Some parents ask why an experienced teacher is being let go. Tulsa Public Schools didn't renew any teachers under temporary contracts; typically that's a first-year teacher. But it does include some teachers who are in their first-year with the district.

Bethany King took a year off so she's under a temporary contract.

The district is trimming teachers, because Tulsa Public Schools is bracing for a major cut in state funding.

5/14/2010 Related Story: Tulsa Teacher Calls Non-Renewal Notice 'Heartbreaking'

But some want to know why the district is still buying equipment, like smart boards. A spokesperson for the district says the money used to buy smart-boards is either federal money or bond funds.

By law, Tulsa Public Schools can't use that money to pay teacher salaries. That has to come out of a district's general fund. So, what about efforts to boost general revenue dollars?

Lawmakers introduced a bill that would allow school districts to sell ads on the side of school buses. That bill is still alive, it's currently in conference. But it's not clear whether it will make it to the governor's desk before the session ends on May 28th.

Bethany King still holds out hope she'll get to do what she loves next year.

"It's hard," she said. "It's hard for all of us that are now going to have to look at other places, as far as private schools, or things that don't include teaching to make ends meet."