Tulsa Public Schools is clearly demonstrating what is wrong with common education financing in Oklahoma.
Faced with a $1.3 billion budget shortfall, Republicans in the Legislature crafted a budget that spared cuts to common education but took money from almost every other state agency, including higher education.
The cries of TPS officials were trumpeted by Tulsa’s liberal media and reports of hundreds of layoffs was front page news in the liberal Tulsa World as forecasts of cuts were discussed.
Those funding cuts didn’t materialize.
What did happen was almost $300,000.00 in raises for 30 administrators at Tulsa Public Schools.
That’s right. While classroom teachers have to buy their own pencils and copy paper, the ivory palace (education service center) convinced the Tulsa School Board to hire more administrators and pay them a lot more money.
The Republican-led Legislature gets blamed for teacher salaries when the truth is that the Tulsa School Board determines salaries. Its budget divides money spent for administration and every teacher salary in the district.
TPS is pulling the “old bait and switch.”
They announce huge layoffs to get coverage on TV and then when they get a budget without cuts, they pad the salaries of administrators.
But they don’t raise teacher salaries.
No, diverting TPS budget funds to teacher salaries would make it harder to win support for a November vote on a $600,000,000.00 state sales tax increase. Giving teachers more money now might make that tax hike less popular.
It’s no wonder public schools have trouble hiring and keeping good teachers when the priority is growing the payroll at the top of organizational chart.
Superintendent Deborah Gist defended the pay raises and claimed they would save a couple of million dollars. If you were recently trained in math at TPS, that might make sense to you.
Oklahoma’s public education needs reform, not more money. Until TPS can prove it can spend money wisely, the public should demand more accountability.