OKLAHOMA CITY - The state's largest school district has specified $10 million in cuts, as it works to fill a $30 million budget hole next year.
"This is a very difficult time," said Associate Superintendent Aurora Lora. "These are some of the deepest cuts I’ve ever seen to a school district, and we’re having to cut things that are really, really important to our schools, so this is an extremely difficult time to step into this role."
Lora said cost reductions will be achieved by:
- Revising school bell times for more efficient bus routes: More schools may start at the same time to reduce the number of buses needed. "If we can get more schools that are all starting at the same time, we can reduce the number of buses we have on the road," Lora said.
- Delaying new textbook purchases
- Reducing school intersessions from five days to three days: Students who need extra tutoring in between terms will only be able to receive it three days a week instead of five.
- Eliminating funding for student testing (PSAT/SAT testing, AP & IB testing): Students will no longer be able to take some of the tests for free as they currently do.
- Reducing elementary school supply budgets: There will be a reduction of $10 per student in supply costs for the school.
- Shifting of eligible expenses between funds
- Delaying athletic equipment & uniform purchases: Excluding football helmets and other safety equipment
- Reducing adjunct coaching positions
- Reducing contracts with outside vendors: The district would not name names but said some contracts would be completely eliminated. For example, Lora said a company paid thousands of dollars a day to coach teachers would be replaced by staff already on payroll.
- Suspending non-federally funded travel: This likely will affect central office, non-teaching staffers, who will no longer receive professional development.
Lora said the cuts will affect academic performance.
"These are things I wish every kid could have, so this is just going to be a difficult year for Oklahoma City Schools," Lora said. "We’ve cut to the bone already, and we’re doing everything we can to avoid cutting more teaching positions."
"These are cuts that we do not want to be making," Lora told reporters. "These are things we know are good for kids so we’re truly disappointed we have to do this, and we hope there’s a way for our state to come up with a stable funding plan for our future."
The cuts bring the district to $23 million in reductions.
Lora said the district is weighing how to make the remaining $7 million in cuts.
Ideas include consolidating schools, suspending athletics and arts programs and additional staffing reductions.
The acting superintendent will likely release details in the next week but, in the meantime, she's asking the community to come together to figure out how to make it through a difficult time.
In March, the district announced it would be cutting 208 teaching positions to save money.
Then, a couple weeks later, the district decided to lay off about 18 percent of its administrative staff.
"We are doing the best we can with the $30 million in cuts and trying to do everything possible not to impact students," Lora said. "But, $30 million is a huge blow to the district."
"The only remedy to this situation is for the legislature to find a permanent fix for educational funding," Lora said.