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Midtown Monitor

TPS Continues to Weather Budget Cuts

Last year, Tulsa Public Schools changed school bell times, made reductions to athletics programs and cut staffing positions in anticipation of state budget cuts of up to $20 million. And it doesn’t appear that it will be any different for the 2017-2018 school year.

“We must place the needs of our teachers, students and families first as we continue to manage this difficult budget situation,” said Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist regarding 2016 reductions.

In the past six years, TPS’ general fund has been reduced by $9 million. The general fund pays for teacher salaries and classroom materials. Specifically, teacher salary expenses were reduced by $8 million in three years.

As TPS grapples with less teachers, this equates to larger classroom sizes for the district’s 75 schools and 40,000 students.

Emma Garrett-Nelson, TPS director of communications, notes that the state is the main source of revenue for the general fund.

“Per student, our state aid has been reduced over the past four years,” she says.

Although, while there have been significant cuts to salary funding, the schools’ building fund has seen a stable revenue stream. This is partially because TPS receives state aid for building expenses, like maintenance, building materials and construction costs, as opposed to several Tulsa-area school districts who do not receive such aid.

This allows TPS more flexibility in using its various funds to pay employees and has helped stabilize the school district’s funds even with budget cuts, Garrett-Nelson continues.

Tulsa Public Schools ended the 2015-2016 school year with over $28 million in the cash fund balance. TPS has kept a high cash fund balance for years, but it’s only out of necessity, says Garrett-Nelson.

“We have been dealing with state aid cuts and revenue shortfalls since 2008-09,” she says. “We have no choice but to build a conservative budget and be prepared for reductions in revenue.”

Between severe cuts and equally severe budgeting measures, the school district is prepared to respond to the state’s continuing revenue failure and cuts from the Oklahoma Board of Education.

“Our plan is to protect classrooms and school sites to the fullest extent possible and make reductions that directly affect classrooms only as a last resort,” said Gist in a 2016 press release. “We need to ask ourselves, ‘Is this the best we can do for our children?’”

Editor’s Note: All numbers shown for Tulsa Public Schools were gathered from the 2011-2012 fiscal year through the 2016-2017 fiscal year budget plans. To view these numbers in detail, visit

Updated 08-13-2017

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