Tulsa Public Schools asking for community’s help to avoid $20 million budget cut

Collaborator: Brittany Harlow
Published: 09/04/2019, 12:49 PM
Edited: 03/11/2021, 10:22 AM
(TULSA, Okla.) Tulsa Public Schools is celebrating some improvement this week, but said they have a long way to go to maintain and improve upon their success. Their biggest concern? Due to state funding issues and low enrollment, they said, the district has been forced to start using their fund balance, or emergency money left over from previous years, to pay for things. Officials said they used $4 million from their fund balance during the 2018-2019 school year, and are projected to use $13-$17 million from the fund balance this school year. TPS said from 2008 to 2018, the State of Oklahoma cut more per pupil to education than any state in the country. Student enrollment in Tulsa Public Schools has also dropped 5,000 students the last ten years, officials said, resulting in even less funding from the state. They said they’ve already made $13 million in cuts over the last four years to offset the funding decrease, but expenses continue to increase. We’re told if nothing changes, TPS could zero out the fund by 2021-2022, and have an annual deficit of -$20 million. The school district said it plans to go over their budget to find new ways to invest and reallocate resources to stretch the dollars they do have. Their main goals are to redesign their current structure and increase enrollment. And they’re asking the community to help them. Here’s the current outline of upcoming events: ‪September 16 - October 11‬ Engagement with internal stakeholders (Team Tulsa) 12 community engagement events ‪October 19, October 22, and October 23‬ 4 community workshops each with 10-15 attendees representing key constituencies ‪October 20 - December 16‬ Team Finance and senior leaders will use community feedback and priorities to develop potential budget models Budget Advisory Group will provide additional insight to ideas, considerations and/or blind-spots) 4 community events to gather further feedback TPS said they aim to implement their new budget in 2020-2021. School officials said recent improvements show they are headed in the right direction, citing their double-digit increase in graduation rate, continued academic growth based on NWEA MAP assessments and significant improvement in employee engagement as key examples. And they are already taking steps to improve in two areas the community recommended. First, they plan on rolling out a new unified enrollment system this winter for families who are enrolling children for the 2020-2021 school year. The system will have one application, one application period, and relevant and timely information for families to help them compare schools and pick the best one for their child. Second, officials said with 14 different grade configurations district-wide, they know their system is difficult to navigate. We’re told they are exploring how best to configure grade structures and will work with school teams during this school year to develop a new path forward.


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