Tulsa schools are eliminating 142 teacher positions

In response to state revenue shortfalls, Tulsa Public schools will cut 142 teacher positions next fall.

The cuts are expected to come with new teachers, not teachers with more than one or two years’ experience.

Superintendent Deborah Gist is painting a dire picture of the district’s financial shape. Estimates are that the TPS budget will drop from $13-20 million for the next budget year.

Class sizes will rise. Kindergarten classes might go from 22-23 students to 26.  Classes in grades 4-6 could rise from 24-25 to 32 students. Middle school 7th and 8th grade classes could expand from 26 to 29 students.

And in high school, class sizes would jump from 29 to 32 students. Advanced placement classes would go from 10 to 15 students.

The Oklahoma State Department of Education told state district that the shortfall will continue to impact the current budget year. One state education fund got $26 million – $20 million less than the expected $47 million – and that means a drop for common education. Tulsa will lose up to $1 million in that drop.

Other Tulsa area schools are bracing for cuts. Catoosa has announced plans to go to a four-day school week next semester.

Last week, the Tulsa Board of Education voted to eliminate about 100 low-priority jobs in response to cuts in state funding.

The board actually OKed the elimination of 175 administrative positions but it created 73 new ones for a net loss of 102.

Superintendent Deborah Gist indicated that a community survey overwhelmingly showed that school patrons wanted the district to save money by cutting administration – not by cutting teachers.

Among the new positions are two lawyers, who could cost up to $306,400. Adding two attorneys could save the district money by reducing the workload for the Rosenstein, Fist and Ringold law firm.

Some of the eliminated positions are campus police and security officers.

In a related event, backers of a proposal to raise state sales taxes by one cent presented their initiative petition the Oklahoma Secretary of State last week.

The proponents of State Question 779 need 124,725 verified petition signatures but they claim they submitted more than 300,000.

If the petition is verified by the Secretary of State, it would appear on the November 8 ballot statewide.

Oklahoma University President David Boren is backing the petition, which was submitted a month before its deadline. The backers claim the revenue from the higher sales tax would give all state teachers a $5,000 raise. The money would be split among common education (kindergarten through 12th grade), career tech and higher education.

If voters approve State Question 779, it would amend the Oklahoma Constitution and create the Education Improvement Fund, which would raise about $615 million a year in education.

Common education would get about 70 percent of the money and higher education about 20 percent. About 8 percent would go to early childhood education and the rest to CareerTech.

The tax increase has been criticized by conservative lawmakers and by city officials who depend on sales tax for the general funds.