Parents Voice Concerns About Proposed Changes To TPS Indian Education Program

Wednesday, February 26th 2020, 11:34 pm
By: Justin Shrair

Parents are voicing their concerns about proposed changes to Tulsa Public Schools' Indian Education Program.

The district held a meeting Wednesday night for anyone to attend.

Christina Kunz was one of many parents at the community meeting. She said TPS's Indian Education Program is beneficial for so many native students and families.

"The tutoring. I like the cultural benefits that they have," said parent Christine Kunz.

Parent Whitney Moore agrees. She said the program helped her son prepare for college.

"He had a lot of help with ACT prep with funding for AP classes. They just helped boost his confidence," said Moore.

Which is why some parents said they are concerned about how the restructuring is going to affect the program.

Superintendent Deborah Gist said the restructuring is due a decline in Native American students’ enrollment and an increase in costs due to the pay raise approved by the state legislature.

“It is related to the decline in funds that we have available for these services, but it’s also related to an increase in costs. The majority of folks in that office are certified employees and the state gave certified employees in Oklahoma a raise, which was long overdue and desperately needed,” said Gist.

Gist also said, "while they funded that raise for folks who are paid from the funds that we get from the state, they didn't fund it for folks who are paid out of other dollars like Title 6, which is how our Indian education office is funded - yet it is still mandatory and that put an additional strain on the budget as well.”

Gist said the money comes from the federal government as well as from Tribal funds. She said with less students in the Indian Education program comes less money, which is why she said TPS is holding community meetings to better understand which services people believe are most important.

“What we are trying to do is address this structural deficit in a way that holds onto the things that we want to be able to do for our students for our teachers for Tulsa,” said Gist.

As parents said they just want to make sure important programs are not cut.

"Just trying to make sure that some of the programs that we have out there that are beneficial stick around," said Kunz.

TPS said for those who couldn't be at the meeting there is also an online survey people can fill out to give their opinions.

The superintendent plans to give her recommendations to the school board sometime in March.

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