Tulsa Public School Budget Causing Problems

Tuesday, July 27th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Tulsa Public Schools are under pressure because next year's budget is coming up short of the district's needs. Board members are battling low teacher pay, a teacher shortage, and security concerns, and improving them requires money. Security is something district officials were hoping to beef up next year. Now, that may or may not happen. Tulsa Public Schools are under tight budget restrictions partly due to new mandates passed by the legislature. "We have to provide some new librarians out of house bill 1017. We have some new special education programs that we're still required to find, and then the math and science teachers," says Ruth Ann Fate, Tulsa school board. The district has to hire more teachers because, beginning this fall, freshman have to have four years of English, three years of math, science, and social studies and they already had a teacher shortage. Last year, Tulsa Public Schools grew 5% while the budget only grew 1%. So Fate says something will have to be cut she just doesn't know what yet. Teachers fought long and hard last year for a raise. And many say the school board made a verbal commitment they can't forget. "We'll be very disappointed if they hide behind, if the superintendent and those submitting the budget hide behind the pretext that they've spent the money on everything else," says Steve Stockley, Tulsa public school teacher. For Example, Oklahoma teachers are already paid $10,000 a year less than teachers in Texas. Fate says she plans to do what she can for everyone. "Teachers are as important to us as the children, so you're going to have to balance. Where do you find the money? Do you cut the childrens programs, do you not give teachers raises so you can continue those programs? It's going to be a tough call," says Fate. A tough call for school board members but teachers say they expect to be high on the priority list. "The words were there last year, and now it's time for the action this year," says Stockley. This year the school plans to spend around $305 million and make around $316 million in revenue. Needless to say, the district won't have much money if any to play with. The school board will hold a special meeting June 29 to discuss items that will affect the budget.