Federal Spending Cuts Could Slash Funding to Oklahoma Schools

Thursday, February 28th 2013, 7:36 pm
By: News 9

Time is running out in Washington for a deal to halt automatic spending cuts. The cuts will go into effect on Friday at midnight, and could have a big impact on the state of Oklahoma, with some of the cuts affecting schools.

If lawmakers fail to reach a deal, it could mean dramatic cuts to early learning programs, and cost some teachers their jobs.

Education for children with disabilities and head start programs are expected to be among the hardest hit, and Oklahoma's largest school district is already preparing for the worst.

School districts are looking at painful budget cuts. The sequester would mean major cuts to federally-funded head start. That's the program that provides education, health and other services to low income children.

"Especially in an urban school district, our kids need to get off to a good start in education, and head start has been a wonderful program for that," OKCPS Superintendent Karl Springer said.

Springer knows the benefits of head start. Oklahoma City Public Schools has 16 head start classrooms. But those aren't his only concern. Cuts are also looming for special education, and  5,500 students receive special education services in his district.

Taking a look at the numbers, Oklahoma City Public Schools' Title 1 program is about $21 million. The district gets about $6 million in federal funds for special education. Now they're looking at a shortfall of over $2 million next year.

"In this school district, we'd never make an across-the-board cut. We'd look at the things we spend our money on and cut those things that have the least effect on people, and I would hope the U.S. government would have the same idea," Springer said.

The district says it would have to look at using state money to try to cover the cost of the head start positions, if federal funding is cut. Oklahoma County has the most head start classrooms in the state, employing more than 250 teachers.

The cuts would go into effect July 1, 2013.