The Cat's Tale April 2016

posted Apr 18, 2016, 6:40 AM by George Burke

As school leaders, every decision we make affects children. The stakes have never been higher.

 

This school year, state budget cuts have left schools $58 million short. Statewide, more than 1,000 education employees may lose their jobs and more than 100 districts are considering fewer school days to save money. Schools expect to lose millions more for next school year.

 

Underfunding isn’t a new state of affairs for schools. Oklahoma invests less per student than nearly every state in the nation. Over the course of a child’s school career, the states surrounding Oklahoma will invest $15,000 to $35,000 more in educating their children. What causes this disparity?  Enrollment in Oklahoma schools has been growing at a faster rate than state funding for years. Common education makes up a smaller share of the state budget than it did in 2008. Instead of increasing teacher pay, hiring more teachers and offering more courses and programs, the opposite has happened.

 

At first, the result of less funding was imperceptible. In many districts like ours, we trimmed budgets gradually over time and saved what we could for an even rainier day. Only in the last two years have the effects of this underfunding become more obvious with a historic teacher shortage. Make no mistake: The struggle for school districts to stay on stable financial and academic ground has been an annual battle for most of the last decade.

 

Our school district’s employees are dedicated to serving your children well. They get the job done even though we can’t afford textbooks, can’t afford to buy more paper, can’t afford to fix the copy machine, continue to grow their class sizes and ask them to take on extra duties without extra pay.  This problem is created not by our community but by many years of minimal state investment and fewer available financial resources.

 

Our children and the educators in our community deserve better. As leaders, it’s difficult to dream about the future in the current financial environment, but we still have big dreams and big hopes for our children.

 

We are making really hard decisions about the future with the best information we have at present.  There are no easy or painless options. This is going to hurt!

 

You can help by contacting lawmakers. In the short-term, we need the Legislature to decide on the education budget by the end of April so we have accurate data with which to make better decisions and avoid any unnecessary cuts.

 

Public education also needs a long-term funding plan. What we’re doing financially isn’t working for children or schools. We will not be able to reverse the damage of the recent cuts or fix a historic teacher shortage without a commitment to put students and their schools on solid financial ground.

 

We will always do the best we can for our students with the resources we are given.

Sincerely,

 

Jon A. Tuck, Superintendent

Madill Public School

 

It's a GREAT day to be a Wildcat!

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