Tulsa city councilors, school board members meet to discuss district's massive budget cuts

TULSA -- Massive budget cuts are once again facing Tulsa Public Schools, and city leaders met with board of education members to show that they're not making these tough decisions alone.

The Tulsa City Council and Mayor G.T. Bynum held a joint meeting with members of the board of education at Central Library in downtown Tulsa.

Councilor Anna America said this public meeting should serve as a public show of support for the district because these cuts affect the entire community.

"Every person in Tulsa needs to be deeply concerned about this and needs to be ready to take action on this issue," America said.

District officials are now considering cutting $12 million from the budget before next school year. Dr. Deborah Gist, the superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools, recently recommended several ways for the district to save money, including the closure and consolidation of schools and the reduction of campus security.

City and school leaders said they are looking to past partnerships as a guide to what they can do together to help in the future. They applauded approval last year of Vision funds to recruit and retain teachers. They also pointed to the free bus rides now being offered to the district's students through Tulsa Transit.

Several ideas emerged throughout the meeting that leaders said they would discuss at a later time, like how future tax districts meant to attract development could better benefit schools.

Unfortunately, nothing can be done right away to help with the impending budget issues, but Dr. Gist said she left the joint meeting feeling encouraged.

"We don't have a specific path right now for Tulsa for this coming school year," she said, "but what we do have is a very strong commitment from our mayor, from our city council and from our board of education to work together to find some solutions."

The board of education will vote to make a final decision on budget cuts at its meeting on May 15.

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