More than 100 people let their voices be heard at our first community engagement meeting Tuesday evening. The Webster High School cafeteria was filled with students, parents, teachers, and community members ready to lend a hand and give their feedback as we begin to shape the future of Tulsa Public Schools.
That future starts with an effort to evaluate our budget structure and a need to find $20 million in savings for the 2020-2021 school year.
From 2008-2018, the State of Oklahoma cut more per pupil to education than any state in the country all while our expenses continue to increase. Since the 2015-2016 school year, Tulsa Public Schools has made $22 million in cuts - including district office reorganizations, school closures and consolidations, and changes to transportation, but even with these cost-saving measures we still had to use money from our fund balance for the first time in a decade.
This, however, is not a sustainable method. To design the best possible school system that we can for the children and families we serve, we 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.
For Tulsa Public Schools to thrive within the means that we have been given with the state's investment in education, we are forced to make difficult choices about how and where we spend money. This brings us back to our community engagement meetings.
We want these meetings to be as interactive as possible. We want to know what our community values. Everything is under consideration, so the feedback we receive is valuable and will help us develop our budget plan for the 2020-2021 school year.
The meetings are broken out into three activities:
1) Reflections about our future:
- Each person will have an opportunity to write down and discuss all of their hopes and their concerns about Tulsa Public Schools, the budget challenges, and the redesign process.
2) Identify investments based on values:
- We want to hear what you value most. Each participant will be asked to identify five investments they value most and discuss.
3) Develop a savings plan:
- Here, participants will receive a list of investments, each with a cost associated with it. The group will be asked to identify areas where savings can be made and come up with a savings plan.
These activities are designed to not only get each member involved in the process but also gives us a look at honest feedback and creates an opportunity to better learn about the values of our community and what matters to them most.
Everyone thinks differently and these activities also create open discussions within each group. Throughout the first meeting, we heard a variety of different values from person to person and table to table - safety, maintaining behavioral and emotional supports for students, teacher pay, the dual language program and more. One teacher brought up class sizes and said she was stretched to the limit already.
One concern that was expressed by many was about declining enrollment, but they also said they understood that it is a cycle - a lack of funding from the state results in districts having to make more cost-saving decisions, which can lead to some resources being limited, leading to a decline in enrollment, which leads to less funding from the state.
Overall the discussions were very informative and exactly what we are looking for from our community members. We want to hear your voice and we want you to be involved in this process, so we encourage you to attend our remaining meetings, whether you’re a teacher, student, parent, or community member.
Below you will find a list of our remaining meeting times and locations. Two of the meetings will be held completely in Spanish, but we will have interpretation services available at every meeting.
We are so thankful to everyone who was able to attend our meeting and Webster High School and we look forward to hearing from many more of you at our future meetings.
Saturday, September 28 (En español)
9:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Saturday, September 28
Rogers High School
Saturday, September 28
Edison Prep. High School
Thursday, October 3
Memorial High School
Tuesday, October 8
Central High School
Thursday, October 10
East Central High School