It’s that time of year where public schools are about to open their doors again for teachers and students. In the Owasso Public School (OPS) district and other schools in the Tulsa County, state budget cuts have dampened the excitement that usually accompanies school openings. With OPS opening on August 18th, the budget cuts mean fewer teachers and fewer programs for the upcoming school year. “The impact of the budget cuts this year also means that I may not get a much needed school transfer for my 5-year old son”, says one Owasso working mom. In her case, with her son being a new enrollment for the school district, her school transfer request may be denied. The problem she faces is that her Day Care Provider lives across town and her son has been going to the same place since he was 6 weeks old. She goes on to say, “my son will already be overwhelmed with being a young 5-year old kindergartener; if he has to change where he is taken care of when he’s not in school, what kind of impact will that have on his ability to learn?” She found out that even if her transfer is approved, her family may not know until the school year has already started. “Psychologically speaking, children are very resilient”, says this working mom, “but knowing where my son will go to school is not just a psychological issue but also a financial one”. She says that although here family will deal with whatever decision is made about their transfer request, she faces serious decisions about how to pay for transportation or higher rates for child care.
Parents aren’t the only ones impacted by the Owasso district budget cuts. The loss of programs mean fewer teachers and other support staff, as discussed in the Owasso Reporter article “Education cuts go deep for district: Programs, positions to be eliminated for 2010-11 school year” by Danielle Parker, Staff Writer. “As a result, a domino effect has been created across the state as all school districts are now faced with supplementing these programs or making plans to drop them altogether“, said Dr Clark Ogilvie, the Owasso Superintendent. According to Lynn Johnson, the Assistant Superintendent over school personnel, many decisions are still pending until the OPS budget is finalized. Many of those pending decisions include teacher placement, teacher shuffling, and unknown student enrollment. She says that their first goal is to make sure students are serviced in their own areas. Since teacher placements are still in flux, considering things like school transfers is not even possible. In addition, Ms. Johnson says that her teachers are anxious because they are unable to completely prepare for their classrooms; they aren’t even sure if they will have a have a position yet or not, making their own financial issues come to the forefront. It is even possible that student enrollment will continue past the school start date, making finalized decisions on issues like transfer requests even that more difficult.
Please watch for future articles as we continue discussions on the loss in school funds for the Owasso Public Schools system and its community. As Lynn Johnson stated in her interview, the Owasso community pulls together during tough times so everything will eventually work out.