Survey: Schools Will Cut Days, Programs If Budgets Are Slashed Again

Monday, April 3rd 2017, 2:40 pm
By: Dana Hertneky

More school districts will go to four-day school weeks and do away with arts and athletic programs if legislators cut education funding. That's according to a survey by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association of all the districts in the state. Districts representing about two thirds of the students in the state replied.

At Blanchard Public Schools, they've tried to keep budget cuts from affecting kids too much.

“We don’t ask for a lot, we just want to afford appropriate services for kids,” said Dr. Jim Beckham, Blanchard Superintendent

But if forced to make more cuts, students will most certainly notice when they go to school less. The district is considering a four-day school week. They are preparing for a 15% budget cut, which would be about $300,000.

“We’ve got to save lots of money and the best way to do that is to cut back on lots of expenditures,” said Beckham. “Unfortunately, that’s either school days or instructional costs.”

The survey found:

  • Sixty-nine percent of districts surveyed expect to grow class sizes.
  • Nearly all districts surveyed are considering cuts to arts, athletics, advanced coursework, summer programs or educational field trips.
  • At least 44 more school districts may cut the number of school days through adoption of four-day school weeks or by shortening the school year.
  • Nearly 30 percent of districts surveyed are considering a reduction in force.
  • Sixteen percent of districts surveyed may reduce transportation services.
  • At least 19 districts expect they may not have enough cash to pay all their bills this year.

Shawn Hime, OSSBA's executive director, says he's not surprised by the results.

“Schools have continues to cut their budget, cut personnel, cut programs and now they’re at a place where it’s difficult to find anything to cut.”

In response to the survey, Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz said:

Senate Republicans have successfully protected common education from the types of budget cuts sustained by other agencies the past several years brought about by the significant economic downturn in Oklahoma. We’re facing another tough budget year and an $875 million shortfall, but Senate Republicans will continue efforts to protect common education from drastic cuts and work on policies that support our students and teachers in the classroom.

While the House Speaker said late last week he would prefer if there were no cuts to education at all.

“Once again, I expect that common education for public schools will be protected in this budget process,” he said. 

Gov. Mary Fallin released the following statement:

I’ve given lawmakers a smorgasbord of ways to provide sufficient revenues to meet the basic responsibilities our government owes to its citizens, such as educating our children. For the past two years, I’ve called for a teacher pay increase.

Public school funding has always been a priority during my administration. During the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years when budget cuts were made to other state agencies, I fought for and approved more than $154 million in additional funding for K-12 education as a way to get more money into the classroom and funding reforms that will improve accountability and boost student performance. That new money totaled more than any other area of government has received during my administration.

We are now more than halfway through the legislative session, and I’m waiting to hear proposals on how to expand our revenue sources so we can solve of these problems, prioritize our services and invest in some of our services. The situation is critical and challenging, and gets more challenging each day.