Schools To Get Less Money

Monday, March 12th 2007, 6:52 pm
By: News On 6

State money for schools is short $17.5 million, meaning schools across the Oklahoma will get less money this month than expected. The cuts range from several hundred thousand dollars to more than $2 million. Tulsa teachers took to the streets last year to get their $3,000 pay raises, and they celebrated when it was approved. But News On 6 education reporter Ashli Sims reports promising a raise is proving to be a lot easier than actually paying for them.

"The timing of this is horrible," said Tulsa Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Joanne Lucas.

Lucas says she's just found out that the state doesn't have enough money to pay for the raises. The legislature was relying on the lottery to help pay for the teacher's $3,000 raises, but State Superintendent Sandy Garrett says so far this year’s lottery is no jackpot for schools.

"They were counting on $1,110 coming from the lottery,” said Garrett.” And the lotto is short and that means those funds are simply not there in the State Treasurers Office.”
With the lottery lagging more than $17 million behind projections, the state can't come up with the full amount for the raises, so schools have to pick up the difference.

"Teachers salaries will not be cut. Schools have a contractual obligation,” Garrett said. “So something else will go unpaid."

The state also promised to pay 100% of employee’s health insurance premium, that's also short. Again, schools have to fill the gap.

In Tulsa, that means more than $2.5 million, $500,000 for Jenks, close to $800,000 for Broken Arrow and more than $700,000 for Union. For school districts like Catoosa, which was already laying off workers to make ends meet, it spells more financial trouble.

Garrett is looking to lawmakers to pay for what they promised.

"I'm very hopeful. There are some good things going on in the legislature,” she said. “I think it’s just a matter of coming to a consensus.”

Garrett is asking for $58 million in supplemental funding. But that doesn't include this latest shortfall.