As schools grapple with deep budget cuts amid the state’s $1.3 billion shortfall, some school districts have begun to ask teachers to cut back on classroom basics. In one Midwest City classroom, a teacher took drastic measures, vowing to stop sending paper home with his students.
“Dear parents, [b]ecause of a paper shortage at a school our school I will not be sending out any more newsletters of homework papers for the rest of the school year” the letter to parents and guardians read. The message was typed out on a third of a sheet of paper that had been cut off on the bottom.
“Well I just couldn't believe it that it was that desperate,” Albers said with a sigh after reading the note aloud on Friday. She said she received the letter earlier this week.
“They couldn't be running out of paper that fast!” 5-year-old Tarran Albers said. His grandmother corrected him and explained they go through around five boxes of paper per week. Paula Albers said she bought a box of paper for her grandson’s class, but lamented that it would not last very long nor would it help other classes struggling with the shortage.
“The teachers and the children are in the trenches. They're fighting the wars and they need the supplies to complete their job,” she said.
The Mid-Del school superintendent, Dr. Rick Cobb, said they didn't ask teachers to stop sending assignments home, but he says they've asked them to cut back on using paper, saying in a statement, "We have asked all Mid-Del staff to be mindful of all costs...within this effort, schools as a whole and individual teachers are curbing the use of copy paper."
Cobb added the school district had set $128,000 aside for the bid for paper as a part of this school year’s budget. The school board recently approved nearly $20,700 for additional copy paper funding.
Mid-Del isn’t the only school district feeling the effects of budget cuts. Some teachers at Putnam City, Grove and Oklahoma City teachers have all said they are conserving necessities like paper and other school supplies normally provided by districts.
The conservation of supplies is linked to the state’s first budget failure announced in January. Then, the State Department of Education was asked to cut three percent from their budget. After shifting funds and some work with the funding formula the DOE was able to “allow for flexibility” for schools rather than calling for straight budget cuts.
When asked about a possible next round of cuts, Department of Education spokesperson Deana Silk said, “We do not know the exact percentage at this time. We do know, however, it will hurt schools. We were able to grant some flexibility in spending for the first round of cuts, but that won’t be possible with deeper cuts.”
Alders said that was a worry looking ahead to next school year.
“At the beginning of every year we have to take a whole list of supplies. Kleenex, hand gel, pencils, crayons and now I guess we'll have to take paper too,” Albers said.