It does not appear that much is being said about the budget cuts occurring to public schools right now. Yes, news outlets are reporting on the millions of cuts being considered in the two largest school districts in the state, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, but seldom else. Have cuts to public education become the norm and acceptable? Is the news such a broken record that we ignore the story? Is this our new norm?
I believe that this beautiful community, Tahlequah, Oklahoma, that has long-valued education, does not think that cutting public education should be the norm. We believe that our students deserve every opportunity public education can afford them!
Tahlequah Public Schools (TPS) has made it a priority to protect our students from the cuts by preserving programs, maintaining class sizes to the best of our ability, and sustaining services for our special populations of students. However, cuts are occurring as we speak which could mean lost services to our students.
Therefore, it is no surprise that as of my financial report in January, public schools have received further cuts to our state aid. Tahlequah Public Schools’ mid-term state aid allocation was $13,098,706.00 for school year 2016-17, which was $110,000 less than the initial August allocation. State aid was cut again in February.
A revenue failure was declared on February 21 for the second year in a row, indicating that tax collections are below the estimates used to determine the state budget. Public schools across the state lost $42 per weighted-student resulting in a loss of $252,543.00 in Tahlequah. This now adjusted Tahlequah Public School’s (TPS) state aid to $12,846,163.00.
In March, public schools were notified that revenue collections for the March state aid payment were approximately $18.9 million short due to revenue shortfalls in some of the revenue funds. TPS experienced another $133,600 cut in state aid by this reduction in our state aid payment due to lack of funds. Our loss was the 22nd highest in a state of 544 school districts or in the top 4% of losses.
The outlook for future state tax collections is dim. We anticipate that state aid payments for April-June will be reduced in the same manner accounting for an additional $300,000 in cuts to our revenue.
TPS stands to lose between $600,000 and $700,000 in state aid this school year from a budget that included this revenue at beginning of the year. A budget with salaries and operational costs that have little room for adjustment once determined. A budget built around the most precious resource on the planet—children.
It is disappointing that there is little budget action from the legislature on stable, recurring revenue to fill the budget hole of $878 million for Fiscal year 2018 or on the current fiscal instability in the state. Revenue cuts and shortfalls are a broken record that I fear is not being heard anymore or isn’t even newsworthy.
This community however believes that our children and the economic future of Oklahoma are worth the listen. We must also be ready to act. Call or email your legislator(s) to find stable revenue to support public education!