TULSA, Okla. — The Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education voted to eliminate 174 positions Tuesday night. It is part of the district's plan to fix its $20 million budget shortfall.
The district says these changes will save $5 million.
77 staff members will lose their jobs. 64 custodial positions will be eliminated when the current employee retires or leaves. As they leave, they'll be replaced with 79 new custodial positions, but those will be on shorter contracts. The American Federation of Teachers Union, which represents TPS support staff, says their members are discouraged by the vote.
“All the support people have lost faith because they don’t feel like they’re important enough to save," said Nancy Leonard, vice president of AFT Tulsa. "But without them, the school system fails. We are the backbone of the school.”
The vote proved difficult for board members who spent nearly two hours in executive session. The Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association says they hoped the board divided up the vote.
“One fell swoop vote makes it hard," said Shawna Mott-Wright, vice president of TCTA. "Because you might want to vote yes on some parts and no on other parts, but instead you’re not given the choice, it’s either yes or no.”
TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist says these changes should get the district through the next two years, but much of the future is up to the state legislature.
“We don’t know what the state legislature will do in terms of funding for education," Dr. Gist said. "And we also don’t know what additional requirements they might put on education. And a lot of times those additional requirements come without the funds to support them.”
The board also voted to create 140 new positions to replace some of those cut. Employees who are losing their positions will stay on through June 30 and can apply for the new and open positions.
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