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TPS working to keep budget cuts from affecting students

Posted at 5:52 PM, Dec 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-10 19:39:34-05

TULSA, Okla. — Tulsa Public Schools is continuing its budget redesign meetings Tuesday night.

Superintendent Deborah Gist is talking to parents about potential cuts the district is making to save $20 million.

Dr. Gist said the district has been able to do more than she thought possible to avoid changes that affect students and teachers, but these changes aren’t easy.

"We're going to make these changes to the structural deficit as far away from the classroom as possible," Dr. Gist said.

Dr. Gist presented the whole budget redesign plan at the first of four meetings Monday night. 75 percent of the proposed cuts would come from the district level. Gist said they would save $13 million to $14 million by reducing and changing district office services.

“It may mean things like, you know, the grass looks a little taller for a little longer than we’d like or things like that," Gist said. "But we’re going to keep functioning, we’re going to keep serving kids, we’re going to continue advocating for adequate funds.”

They also plan to save about $2.5 million in transportation with changes like shifting bus schedules and stretching out school start times.

“So that we can have one bus driver more than one route," Gist said. "And that will help us both with our bus driver shortage and also help us to avoid having two bus drivers where we might be able to have one.”

Other major cuts include closing or consolidating four elementary schools. They also want to change the elementary staffing plan by adding an average of one student to each elementary classroom. Together, those would save $5 million to $6 million. All the proposed cuts would save the district $18 million to $20 million.

“We’re going to be in great shape. We’re not going to be in the shape we need to be," Gist said. "We are going to keep advocating that our state adequately invest in public education”

Dr. Gist will present the budget recommendations to the school board in early January. The board will vote later that month whether to close the schools. The decision on district staffing cuts and changes will be made in the future.

The next public budget meeting is Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 5:30 p.m. at the East Central High School cafeteria.

The last meeting is Thursday, Dec. 12 at 5:30 p.m. at the Webster High School cafeteria.

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