Budget cuts forcing some school districts to consider layoffs

Thursday, April 11th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Cuts in the state budget have forced some Oklahoma school districts to consider laying off employees, including teachers.

On Wednesday, the Apache Board of Education voted not to renew the contracts of four teacher assistant positions in the district, Superintendent Cory Ellis said.

``I have been talking to my staff about the possible cuts since November,'' Ellis said. ``The four assistants have been told already.''

State agency budget cuts will average 6.64 percent for the balance of the year, which ends June 30, officials said Tuesday. The projected shortfall for fiscal 2003 is $350 million.

State House and Senate leaders have reached a budget agreement to protect education from further cuts, but the full House and Senate have to approve the proposal and Gov. Frank Keating has to sign the legislation.

A possible funding shortfall and fewer students have led the Poteau school board to approve a plan to lay off 12 employees, seven of which will be teachers.

Of the projected $400,000 shortfall, $300,000 stems from a loss in state aid and the other $100,000 comes from a loss of 56 students over the past two years, Poteau schools Superintendent Dan Foreman said Wednesday. Poteau's 2001-02 budget was $11.5 million.

The district may be able to scale back its budget cuts if the Legislature adds money to the state education budget, Foreman said. But until then, district administrators have to prepare for the worst.

``The school business is something where we do our reductions first, then see how much funding we have,'' Foreman said. ``It's hard to operate a business or a school with these reductions and then find out what your budget is.''

If state funding is restored before the fiscal year ends, the laid-off workers could get their jobs back, Foreman said.

Even with retirements and several resignations, Enid school officials voted to lay off two teachers. Besides less state aid, Superintendent Kem Keithly cited lower enrollment and other factors for the layoffs, which could save the school $750,000.