Adrianna Iwasinski, News 9
OKLAHOMA CITY – During an education summit Wednesday, Governor Mary Fallin said she wants to work alongside school administrators and said education is the key to laying the foundation for prosperity for Oklahoma.
"We need to make sure money is spent wisely in the state," said Fallin. "You are the key."
When addressing the looming budget that will be unveiled next month, Fallin told the crowd that she knows they've all had to tighten their belts, but said she understands the commitment to education and she will have an open-door policy.
"How do we make additional budget cuts without affecting education and the classroom?" said Deputy Superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools Sandra Park.
Park was one of the hundreds of school administrators from across Oklahoma who gathered in south Oklahoma City to hear from state lawmakers, leaders and Governor Fallin about their plans for the future of public education.
All are bracing for how the state's budget crisis will affect the state of education.
"I've challenged all of our superintendents today to look at ways to bring best practices within the systems themselves to tighten their belts, just like families have had to tighten their belts, just like businesses have had to tighten their belts," said Governor Fallin.
David Goins, the Superintendent of Edmond Public Schools, said he hopes his district won't have to make any more cuts since they already cut more than $4 million. And this time they won't have federal stimulus dollars to fill in the gaps in the classroom.
"Further reductions will be difficult because we've tightened our belts pretty extremely over the last several years. And it is important to sustain the funding levels that we have if at all possible," said Goins. "But I hope that the legislature will truly work with us as those decisions are made."
School administrators fear more cuts would force them to cut even more personnel. The CFO for Norman Public Schools said they've already reduced in the areas of travel, support staff and personnel development.
"We don't have much wiggle room left. We have reduced in areas that we can. We've been trying to stay away from the classroom, but I think it is inevitable," said Brenda Burkett, CFO Norman Public Schools.
Governor Fallin will unveil the state budget on February 7.