Budget Cuts Force Oklahoma School Districts To Drop Programs
OKLAHOMA CITY - Budget cuts are forcing schools to pick and choose what programs they can keep and which have to be cut to save money.
"When budget cuts come, there's going to be stress somewhere," said Paul Pluess, principal at Pierce Elementary School in Oklahoma City.
At Pierce Elementary school, Pluess says that stress fell on anything outside of the core curriculum.
"We used to have full time art full time music, full time PE," she said. "This year we're down to full time PE and two days a week of music."
When allocations stopped coming in for the extracurricular classes - especially the arts -- the burden fell on the teachers.
"My students have to receive a grade in fine arts and so now my teachers are not only asked to teach science and history and reading and math now they also have to find time in their day or in their week to teach fine arts," Pluess said.
"The problem is far reaching in schools across the state where foreign language courses and even summer school are being cut.
"When I first got here we actually had French, German, Latin and Spanish," said teacher Julie Leaton.
Leaton has taught for 22 years and is in her 11th year teaching Spanish at Sapulpa Jr. High School. She was saved by the cuts when Spanish was the only foreign language course left standing.
"We're in a pretty low place right now," Leaton said. "I want every one of my kids to be the best they can be and to know I can't give them what they deserve, it's very disheartening, very sad."
The budget woes have cut especially deep at Jenks Public Schools too.
"We had to cut our summer school program that we used to have at this site which was nice because it was a way for a lot of our teachers to earn some additional income over the summer," said Elle Fowler, 6th grade math and science teacher at Jenks.
Schools are now forced to rely on outside resources to fill the gap. Students at Pierce Elementary will receive ballet classes once a week through an arts partnership for Oklahoma City Public Schools. However, some say more needs to be done at the state level.
"Bottom line is that our kids deserve it, our teachers deserve it and something does have to be done," said Pluess.