Oklahoma schools are reeling from the fallout of two rounds of budget cuts to education by the state this year.

Oklahoma schools are reeling from the fallout of two rounds of budget cuts to education by the state this year.

“These cuts have cost Bethel Schools almost $200,000,” Bethel Schools Superintendent Jerry Johnson said.

The administration is considering cutting seven days this month to help offset the budget crunch –– just like some other schools across the state are beginning to do, he said.

And if that news wasn't bad enough, it appears it's not even close to being over.

“We are being told to expect another two-percent cut before June 30 (the end of the fiscal year),” he said.

If that happens, Johnson said it would cost Bethel Schools an additional $100,000.

And schools can't keep shaving a budget that's already seeing bones.

“When 85 percent of your budget goes toward personnel,” he said, “at some point there will have to be reductions.”

If we were forced to decide today –– just looking at the information we have now –– we could potentially lose seven certified staff members and three support staff, Johnson said.

But nothing has been decided yet, he said. Johnson said the district is waiting for legislature to offer more clarity to the situation before taking any action.

“It's the best we can do at this time –– reduce the calendar and wait for more information,” he said.

The district could wait until June and see what happens, he said, but that's not fair to our people. They deserve to know what lies ahead, he said.

Superintendents are being told to expect a cut in school funding for the 2016-17 term in the range of $200 per weighted student, Johnson said.

“For us, that would mean a cut of approximately $407,800,” he said.

He said Bethel has scheduled to alter the school calendar next year and take off six Fridays at the end of the second semester.

“We hope the state legislature will let us know something soon about funding for next year –– hopefully before we have to make a decision at our May 9 Board meeting,” he said.

“We want to be able to keep as many of our staff members as possible,” Johnson said.

Annie Keehn, Bethel High School science teacher, said the administration has been very open about the reality of the district's budget woes.

“We all know our school administrators are doing what they can to make sure students aren't impacted by the state's cuts to our budget,” she said.

“The community should know that our administrators have voluntarily chosen to take a pay cut –– with our superintendent choosing to take the largest cut,” she said.

Also, teachers will not receive any step raises next school year, she said.

“All of these efforts are an attempt to keep people from losing their jobs,” she said. “But we are still looking at possibly 10 people at the district who may not have positions next year,” she said.

“School administrators around the state are dealing with extremely difficult decisions right now,” she said. Schools are doing the best they can with what they've been given, Keehn said.

 

Tell me your story ideas. You can reach Vicky O. Misa at (405) 214-3962.