Teacher Layoffs Prompt Walkout

Wednesday, March 7th 2007, 9:43 am
By: News On 6

Students hold a brief walkout and protest at a Rogers County high school. About 100 Catoosa High School and middle school students walked out of class Wednesday morning. The students were protesting the layoffs of 4 teachers, a nurse, a suspension coordinator and 21 support staff members because of budget problems.

During their brief walkout, the students shouted "save our staff" and "let them come back." Catoosa Police officers and school security guards were on hand, but the demonstration Wednesday morning ended after about an hour. "We want to help these teachers to get their jobs back because it's not their fault that they were fired. They can't help that the school's having problems," says Catoosa High School senior Joshua Patton. A parent, Tammi Hulsey was also on hand and said, “my daughter was affected this morning by a staff member being let go today. It's been hard on the kids to re-adjust to go into different classrooms."

Hundreds of Catoosa students and parents showed up to an emergency school board meeting Tuesday night. Catoosa School Superintendent Larry Cole says the layoffs are necessary because the district is half a million dollars in the hole. Cole says he needs to trim $250,000 from the budget, which he says can be done with the layoffs.

One of those support employees laid off on Tuesday was Gretta Wisely, the Catoosa School transportation secretary. "It's sad. I have a daughter in the school system. I'm the sole supporter, head of household and I don't know what I'm gonna do."

The superintendent says there are two reasons for the half-million dollar shortfall. One is the district has expanded to full-day kindergarten. Secondly, last year's $3,000 teacher pay raises.

Catoosa isn't the only school district facing financial strain because of last year's teacher pay raises. School superintendents across Oklahoma say state lawmakers shorted them by about $58 million. They went to the state capitol Wednesday to ask for what they call "deficiency funding." They say state lawmakers paid for the raises, but not benefits and others costs related to those raises.

Catoosa School leaders say those costs are the reason they are laying off 27 employees.

For more background on this story, click on the link below.

3/6/2007 - Budget Shortfall Could Mean Fewer Teachers