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Investing for equity, access, and sustainability

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We are working with our team, community, and families to shape the future of Tulsa Public Schools to make teaching and learning in Tulsa more equitable and more accessible. One way that we will move that work forward is by evaluating our budget structure to identify both strategic investments and resource reallocations to help our educators, team members, students, and schools thrive within our continued fiscal constraints.

Our community is essential, and your feedback is integral to helping us understand the core initiatives, services, and supports you value most. While the work ahead will be challenging, it's also an exciting chance to design the best possible school system that we can for the children and families we serve. We are excited to work alongside our team and the community to shape the future of Tulsa Public Schools as a place where families and educators choose to stay because the experiences is unmatched in excellence.

Save The Date

Our next community meetings will be:

  • Monday, December 9, from 5:30-7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, December 10, from 5:30-7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, December 11 from 5:30-7 p.m.
  • Thursday, December 12 from 5:30-7 p.m.

*Please make sure to keep checking this page while we finalize locations for these meetings.

Learn more about how the Tulsa Public Schools budget works by clicking the PDF below:

Tulsa Public Schools Finance 101

Community Feedback Report

FAQs

How did we get here?

This challenge has been a decade in the making - in broad strokes, here are some of the key factors:

  • Over the last decade, state education funding has continued to lag - even with last year's historic investment, we still have not reinvested to commensurate with where we were before 2008.
  • Over the last decade, student enrollment in Tulsa Public Schools has decreased by approximately 5,000 students, resulting in less funding from the state.
  • Since the 2015-2016 school year, we have made $22 million in cuts including district office reorganizations, school closures and consolidations, and changes to transportation services.
  • This is further exacerbated because as our enrollment revenue decreases and operating expenses increase, we are also managing a decade of broader state education funding cuts.
  • For the current year (FY19-20), when adjusted for inflation, the state is about $100 million short from FY07-08 and the state now has 50,000 more students than a decade ago.

What happened to the lottery money?

While these funds are part of the revenue stream used for state aid, that revenue stream did not bring in as much as we expected. Before the lottery program was put in place in 2007, it was projected to bring in between $300 million and $500 million annually. State appropriations for public schools are down more than $110 million since the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year and are down a total of $1 billion since 2009.

Is the district making cuts this year (impacting school year 2019-2020)?

No. We made the strategic decision to use money from our fund balance this year to provide stability in our system after multiple years of budget cuts. We will not make reductions for 2019-2020.

Didn't the state just increase funding to public education last year?

While our legislators made a historic reinvestment in public education last year, most of that money funded the much-needed increase in teacher salaries. For Tulsa Public Schools, the state's reinvestment amounted to about $3 million toward our general operating expenses.

Does the district have a possible plan for filling the deficit?

Our plan is to make the best investments possible for our teachers, students, and schools and to refine those potential resource reallocations and investments based on the insights we gather from our community. We know that we will need to reduce costs, reallocate resources and make strategic investments to ensure that we are investing in a way that has the most positive impact on our students. Knowing that we will likely have to make difficult choices about how and where we spend money, it is critical that we understand what investments our team, community, and families value most to guide our decision-making.

Why don't you cut the district office?

Our district office team performs a number of essential functions including student transportation, safety and security, facilities maintenance and operations, payroll and benefits, services for students with special needs, IT management and support, academic services for school teams, and student and family support services. We have reorganized the district office several times over the last three years, resulting in a net reduction of about 128 positions since the 2016-2017 school year. We are, however, continuing to evaluate the structure of our district team to ensure that we are organized in the way that best supports the needs of our school teams and moving forward, we remain committed to ensuring that our district team is structured around serving our schools most efficiently and effectively.

Where does district funding go?

  • 77% of our budget goes to classroom and school services, which includes supervising and supporting students, teaching staff, instructional support staff, transportation of students, and student counseling.
  • 8% of our budget goes to professional learning and curriculum support.
  • 7% of our budget goes to business services including human resource and legal services, IT, accounting, payroll, warehouse, and procurement.
  • 6% of our budget goes to operations to maintain and operate clean, comfortable, and safe schools and facilities.
  • 2% of our budget goes to general administrative responsibility for district operations inclusive of superintendent and board of education services, public relations, strategic planning and execution.
Pie chart of the preliminary fiscal year 2020 expenditure budget.

 

Pie chart of preliminary fiscal year 2020 expenditures and how dollars are spent.

How Does the district's budget work?

The annual revenue budget for Tulsa Public Schools is approximately $608 million that comes from federal, state, and local funding sources. Of this amount, 56% is unrestricted funds that can be used for general operations (the "General Fund") and 44% is restricted funds that can only be used for expenses such as building construction, repair, and maintenance, energy and utility costs, and the child nutrition program.

The General Fund pays for the district's day-to-day expenses including transportation, operations, payroll, accounting, purchasing, professional learning, curriculum, instruction, and assessment. School staff and school operations represent 77% of General Fund expenditures.

Pie chart of the preliminary fiscal year 2020 expenditure budget.

 

Pie chart of preliminary fiscal year 2020 expenditures and how dollars are spent.

How do charter schools affect student enrollment at Tulsa Public Schools? How does that impact state and federal funding?

We have a responsibility to families to make sure they have great options for their children – this includes our neighborhood schools, magnet schools, charter partners, and partnership schools. We authorize charters that we believe will enrich the options available for Tulsa families. We believe in school choice, and we are pleased to work with our charter partners to ensure that students and families have access to a wide range of robust learning experiences and environments.

State law authorizes charter schools in 12 school districts: Broken Arrow, Edmond, Jenks, Midwest City/Del City, Moore, Mustang, Oklahoma City, Owasso, Putnam City, Sand Springs, Tulsa and Union Public Schools. Charter schools differ from traditional public schools in that they receive some regulatory freedom and autonomy in exchange for having their charters reviewed by an authorizer. Tulsa Public Schools authorizes six charter schools, and we consider these schools to be part of the Tulsa Public Schools family. As their authorizer, we have oversights of these schools and can ensure that they are providing the high-quality, equitable, safe, and supportive learning experiences our children need and deserve. While we have six charter partners, there are others in our area that are not district-authorized.

State aid for district-authorized charter schools comes through Tulsa Public Schools to go to our charter partners. District-authorized charter school students are not counted in Tulsa Public Schools enrollment for federal aid. It is true that when a student leaves to go to a charter school, even if it is one of our charter partners, it can result in a decrease in state aid funding related to student enrollment. It is important to note, however, that the vast majority of students who leave Tulsa Public Schools go to suburban districts.

Where can I find information about the district’s budget? Where can I find an independent audit of the district’s budget?

You can find comprehensive budget information at www.tulsaschools.org/budget. Pursuant to state law, we are audited every year, and those audits are also available at www.tulsaschools.org/budget. Our budget is typically presented to our Board in the spring and is subject to Board approval.

Will the district close or consolidate schools? How much money would that save?

Everything is under consideration, with the exception of our moratorium on closing or consolidating schools in North Tulsa. This was a commitment we made as part of our work with the North Tulsa Community Education Task Force over the 2018-2019 school year.

In the spring of 2017, the Board of Education approved the closure and consolidation of several schools in West Tulsa: Clinton Middle School was closed and those students moved to Webster Junior High School, and ECDC Porter, Park, and Remington elementary schools were consolidated into a single elementary school now known as Clinton West Elementary School. The resulting savings totaled about $1 million through reduced operational cost and decreased staffing needs.

It is important to note that while school closures or consolidations could be one of the potential ways to reallocate resources, no reasonable amount of closures would be enough to fill the budget gap. We will need to do a little bit of everything to get us to $20 million in expenses reductions.

What can community members do to help advocate for continued increases in state funding?

We encourage you to contact your legislators and encourage them to continue the critical work of reinvesting in public education. You can find your legislator by visiting www.oklegislature.gov. We also encourage you to connect with the Tulsa Parent Legislative Action Committee to learn more about how you can advocate on behalf of our students, teachers, and schools.

How much state funding will be allocated to the district in the spring of 2020?

The state education budget is approved in the spring, so Tulsa Public Schools creates our budget for the following school year without details about what our state funding will be. If legislators did decide to add funding back into the system, then we will be able to use the feedback from our community meetings to decide where to reinvest.

Will you be holding meetings with students to include their voices in this process?

Yes! We actually held a student meeting with our Superintendent’s Student Cabinet on Wednesday, Oct. 2, and we look forward to continuing to engage students throughout the budget redesign process.

Are there properties or buildings that the district can sell?

Yes, we do have a process in place through which we are able to sell property that is not in use and that we do not expect to use. The funds received in a sale of property are restricted and cannot be used for general fund expenses.

What about raising local taxes? Is that an option to help with funding schools?

The Oklahoma state education funding formula takes into account a school district’s local and county taxes (e.g. ad valorem, vehicle tags) and deducts that from its state funding -- these deductions are known as “chargeables.” This means the more a city or county contributes to schools (for example, through increased property values, new businesses, or construction), the less it receives from the state.

Because a school district with larger local and county revenue receives less in state aid funding, it leaves more funding available at the state level to distribute to school districts with minimal local and county revenue. However, for a district like Tulsa Public Schools, it makes it difficult for the city and county government to propose funding measures to support the school district.

What are the next steps after these community meetings?

There will still be a number of opportunities for community members to stay engaged!

  • Complete our survey at www.tulsaschools.org/budgetsurvey. The survey will remain open until 9 a.m. on Oct. 14.
  • Attend one of our four community feedback meetings taking place across the district during the week of Dec. 9 - Dec. 13. Times and locations are coming soon!
  • Tulsans can also make public comments at any of our Board meetings. For more information about speaking to the Board, visit www.tulsaschools.org/board.

Does the district have an organizational chart? Where can I find a copy of the district’s organizational chart?

Our functional organizational chart on our website at www.tulsaschools.org/teamtulsa.

What has per pupil funding been over the last decade?

We thought it would be easier to show you this using graphics. We compared the state’s per pupil funding to our per pupil funding in 2016 dollars, using the General fund, Building fund, and Child Nutrition fund. The 2015-2016 school is the most recent data analyzed for the state.

As you can see in 2008, the state spent $9,460 per pupil while we spent $9,500.

In 2010, the state spent $9,428 per pupil while we spent $9,714.

In 2012, the state spent $9,066 per pupil while we spent $9,445.

In 2014, the state spent $8,719 per pupil while we spent $9,098.

In 2016, the state spent $8,681 per pupil while we spent $8,834.

 

Has the district considered a 4-day school week?

Everything is under consideration as we work to develop our 2020-2021 budget. We also evaluated this cost reduction in 2016-2017 and did not use it for several reasons:

  • We know that a four-day week could create both a financial and logistical hardship for our many working families.
  • Switching to a four-day school week only creates about $708,000 is cost-savings through reduced transportation and utility costs. There are no salary-related savings as salaried staff would just work longer hours in a shorter number of days.
  • A shorter work-week would reduce opportunities for our hourly support staff to earn money and would create a financial hardship for those team members.

Does the district already have a plan for the budget? What is the point of these community meetings?

No, we do not have a plan in place for how to reduce expenses by $20 million. Our plan at this point is to make the best investments possible for our teachers, students, and schools and to refine those potential resource reallocations and investments based on the insights we gather from our community. We know that we will need to reduce costs, reallocate resources, and make strategic investments to ensure that we are investing in a way that has the most positive impact on our students. This will mean making difficult decisions around how and where we spend money - and those decisions will likely mean choosing between options that nobody favors.

We believe that our community is essential, and we are working urgently to understand what investments our team, community, and families value most to guide our decision-making. Our plan is to gather as much information as we can about what matters most to you. That feedback -- along with a lot of information about what we know is working in our classrooms and information about long-term fiscal stability --will help us develop a plan.

Why does the district use contract services and consultants?

While we do contract out for the management of our child nutrition and maintenance teams, the vast majority of the hundreds of staff on these teams are our employees. They are members of our district office team who work extraordinarily hard, and with the expert guidance of the manager with whom we contract, we hope to continue to grow our own internal capacity to provide these critical services. We are, however, looking at all of our contracts to determine whether there might be additional opportunities for cost savings.

We work with incredible professionals in Oklahoma to help improve teaching and learning in our schools. We also have federal grants and philanthropic support that allows us to work with national organizations who have expertise in supporting high-poverty urban districts.

What will happen if the district were to receive more funding to offset the $20 million deficit? Will the cuts still happen?

By learning about what our community values, we can also use that input to help inform where we should invest should we reach a point where the state restores funding to pre-2008 levels and invests significantly above those levels. If state funding were to offset the deficit, we would have a great opportunity to implement the strategic investments and resource reallocations that we know matter most to the community and families we serve.

Where did the class size numbers come from on the Tulsa Public Schools community budget survey?

The numbers included in the survey are based on the methodologies described below, but they do not necessarily reflect the experience of every teacher and student in our schools and classrooms. Class sizes vary across our district based on a number of factors - the school, the grade level, the school building, and the number of teacher vacancies - and they can even vary by day depending on the availability of substitute teachers. We recognize that class sizes are a serious challenge in our district and in our state. Our teachers work extraordinarily hard on behalf of our students, and our students and teachers need and deserve smaller class sizes. We continue to advocate strongly for our state leaders to restore education funding to pre-2008 levels and begin to invest in our public education system so that we can create the conditions our students and teachers need to be successful, including smaller class sizes.

  • The student to teacher ratio in the budget survey was calculated by dividing the number of active certified classroom teachers by the total student enrollment (not counting students enrolled in district-authorized charter schools). Using today's numbers (October 4), this translates to 2,272 teachers divided by 35,706 students for a ratio of 15.7. This includes teachers in very small classes such as self-contained special education classes and special education teachers, psychologists, and other certified staff at a school who work directly in classrooms but may not have a class assigned to them.
  • The average class sizes were calculated by rank ordering all classes with students of 10 or more and reporting the middle point that separated the top 50% classes in terms of size from the bottom 50% classes in terms of size. This number was 20 for kindergarten, 21 in elementary and 24 for secondary. This calculation was based on rostered teachers (teachers who have a class assigned to them) and teachers with very small classes (which are typically classrooms serving special student populations).

Who is on the budget advisory committee?

Phil Albert - OU Board of Regents

Phil Armstrong - Greenwood Cultural Center - 1921 Commission

Representative Carol Bush - Oklahoma District 70

Councilor Jeannie Cue - Tulsa City Council, District 2

Christina da Silva - Deputy Chief of Staff, Tulsa

Moises Echeverria - President/CEO OK Center for Community and Justice

Patti Ferguson-Palmer - President of Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association

Niki Grauberger - Parent

Brian Hall - University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

David Harris - President, 100 Black Men

Katie Henke - Tulsa Regional Chamber

Brian Hosmer - Tulsa Public Schools Board member, District 5

Brian Hunt - CCIM Senior Development Manager

Cynthia Jasso - Teach for America

Ismael Martinez - American Electric Power

Sara Martinez - Tulsa City County Library

Steve Mitchell - Argonaut Private Equity

Wes Mitchell - Retired community member

Regina Moon - Parent Child Center of Tulsa

Elizabeth Andaverdi Nave - Farmer's Insurance

Representative Monroe Nicholes - Oklahoma District 72

Brian Paschal - President, CEO at Foundation for Tulsa Schools

Marnie Phelps - Manhattan Construction Co.

Ashley Philippsen - Deputy Chief of Community Development and Policy, City of Tulsa

Brenda Pipestem - Pipestem Law, PC

Melanie Poulter - Community Service Council of Greater Tulsa

Marcus Powers - Hawthorne teacher; Teacher Cabinet member

Misti Ryan - Ascension

Shane Saunders - Trident Energy

Suzanne Schreiber - Tulsa Public Schools Board member, District 7

Peggy Simmons - President, COO of Public Service Company of Oklahoma

Zack Stoycoff - Zarrow Mental Health Policy Organization

Etta Taylor - OK PTA, Tulsa PTA

Lana Turner-Addison - North Tulsa Economic Development Initiative

James Wagner - Chief of Performance Strategy and Innovation, City of Tulsa

Pastor Jeff Walker - Carbondale Assembly of God

Rose Washington - Chief Executive Officer at TEDC Creative Capital

Joey Wignarajah - Argonaut Private Equity

Carlisha Williams - ImpactTulsa