Tulsa Public Schools has reached its tipping point and is using this moment to shape the district’s future.
After tapping its reserve fund last year and continuing to lose students, the district must cut $20 million from its budget.
The status quo is failing the district and administrators are looking to the public for solutions.
The immediate need of slashing nearly 7% of its total budget is going to be a painful process. It’s a large chunk of money that must come from somewhere.
There is a bigger picture.
Public school enrollment has been growing statewide for more than a decade including big booms in Tulsa’s suburbs and in on-line learning. Since 2008, TPS enrollment declined by about 5,000 students.
Simply cutting its way out of a budget problem would be a losing strategy for TPS. The better solution: Attract more students and the state funding that comes with them.
Discussions about how to reduce the TPS budget must go hand-in-hand with improving student recruitment and retention.
How can we return TPS to being a high-performing district of choice for young families? What unmet priorities do Tulsans have for their schools? How can the district keep its students and attract more?
TPS plans to host about a dozen public events from Sept. 16 to Oct. 11 to hear what values and services are most important to parents, students, teachers, staff and taxpayers. Another round of public sessions will be held Oct. 20 to Dec. 15.
We urge the district toward a completely transparent process. Four community workshops closed to the public will be held in October. TPS leadership should reconsider that decision and have discussions in the open to build public trust.
Everything should be on the table for consideration, including another overhaul and reduction of district administration.
Most important, TPS board members and administrators need to keep an open mind and act on what they hear from the public.
The school board will receive a modified budget and recommendation by Dec. 16.
Be involved. We believe TPS officials are sincere in asking for public help and encourage everyone to respond by attending one of the sessions and voicing their opinions. Email your school board member and TPS administrators.
Tulsa needs a vibrant public school system and now is the time to shape the district’s future.
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