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A line of community members welcome back students.

The 2019-2020 school year marks our 4th year of Destination Excellence, and we have made some important gains during that time, including double-digit increases in our graduation rate, continued academic growth based on NWEA MAP assessments, and significant improvement in employee engagement.

We have also had many opportunities to listen to and learn from our community about what is working well and where we need to improve. Based on that feedback, it is clear that we must redesign our system 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. It's a process that we want our community highly engaged in.

From 2008 to 2018, Oklahoma cut more per pupil to education than any other state in the country. Some funding has been restored in the last few years, but what has been reinvested is not close to addressing the major cuts.

"If you just look at what we received per pupil in 2008, and if you use our enrollment per pupil through 2018, even if you account for the increases in our local taxes revenues, it's $16 million that we don't have now," Superintendent Deborah A. Gist said. "The reinvestment that was made in this legislative session, for Tulsa Public Schools, was about $1 million, so we are still $15 million less per pupil than we had in 2008."

Since the 2015-2016 school year, we have made $22 million in cuts. We have managed our budgets through our own cost saving measures, vacancy savings, and slight under-spending of budgets across the district. Even with those cost-saving measures, for the first time in a decade, we had to use our fund balance to fill the gap in the 2018-2019 school year. And in 2019-2020, we expect to use between $13-$17 million more from our fund balance.

"That was the right choice and one we made very strategically because we had room in our fund balance to be able to do that and still have enough in that balance to be able to keep our district functioning, but that can't continue and we know that," Gist said.

Moving forward, Tulsa Public Schools is going to work with the community to understand core initiatives, services and supports, and what people value the most. Over the next few months, we will work to narrow in on our core set of priorities to improve student experiences while re-growing our student enrollment:

  • We will engage our team and our community to understand the core initiatives, services, and supports they value most;
  • We will develop potential budget models and seek community feedback; and
  • We will identify and implement the most effective resource allocations to support the priority investments that we know matter most to the families we serve.

Using the feedback we receive from the community, we will develop our budget plan during the fall and winter of 2019 and implement the new budget in 2020-2021.

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. It's an opportunity to develop and implement a set of strategic investments and resource reallocations that will help us to thrive within the means that we have been given with the state's investment in education.

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 experience is unmatched in excellence.

Below you will find a list of community engagement meetings that we highly encourage everyone to attend.

Thursday, October 10

East Central High School
12150 E. 11th St.

5:30-8:00 p.m.