Tulsa Schools' board of education maintains job freeze

Tuesday, April 8th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Oklahoma schools are continuing to trim budgets despite a deal from the state to pump almost two billion dollars into education next year.

Schools across Tulsa County are still trying to cut corners. Educators are trying to be cautious. As News on 6 anchor Terry Hood reports, educators have been promised money before and the dollars just weren't there.

For Oklahoma schools, education funding is a plus and minus game. Lawmakers are promising schools an additional $80-million for next year. But after two years of deep cuts, schools are still down millions. Tulsa School Superintendent Dr David Sawyer: "we'll continue to have challenges but fortunately they won’t be as severe as they could have been if the legislature had not taken those actions."

But the budget picture is severe enough for Tulsa Public Schools to maintain its hiring freeze. About 120 teachers will retire or leave the district next year, and Tulsa's School board decided not to replace them. That loss will add up to more students in middle and high school classrooms, and even affect some elementary students. Steve Stockley, Tulsa Classroom Teacher's Association: "I've never seen so many people that have no answers as to what they're going to do with more students and less resource."

Even though Tulsa schools met the Zarrow Challenge, school officials say its not enough to impact next year. And Tulsa is not alone districts all over the county are cutting back. Broken Arrow schools decided not to move forward with layoffs, but there will be 40 empty teaching positions in the district next year.

School officials are concerned money promised by the state might not be delivered. Dr Jim Sisney: "My fear is that the money is not available to come through on the promise I'm not sure anyone is aware of where the dollars are going to come from." Dr. David Sawyer: " we have to be very conservative in our planning for this coming fiscal year obviously no one's crystal ball is clear enough to demonstrate how economic circumstances will change over the next year."

Terry Hood tells us the budget worries may not even be over for this year. Some educators say districts could face another round of cuts this spring.