Tulsa School Districts’ and Business’ Reaction to State Cuts: Flawed but Imperative
Over the past several weeks, the daily Google Alerts on Education I receive have included multiple articles on the devastating cuts the Oklahoma State legislature made to public education. Several, like this one from earlier last week, described imaginative partnerships between schools and businesses that provide some funds to plug the gap. While I have long been an advocate of public schools forgoing partnerships with businesses and other social service agencies, the mathematically reality is that gambits like the one developed between TTCU The Credit Union and the Union Public schools can only work for the short term, do not begin to fill the gaps created by State level cuts, and have a dis-equalizing effect on public school funding.
While the $105,000 raised for the Union School district by TTCU The Credit Union is helpful, it is only 2% of the funds lost due to budget cuts. In short, that amount of money cannot begin to restore the loss of $5.2 million in State funds that resulted in the elimination of 48 positions for the 2016-17 school year, including 25 teachers and 19 support workers. Moreover, since there is no assurance the same level of funds will be available in the next fiscal year it would be imprudent to use it to hire staff. It’s a short term fix for a problem that will remain for decades unless the budget is increased.
The biggest problem I find with this is the fact that the funds depend on credit card spending by parents. There are many students raised in poverty whose parents do not have swipe cards because they cannot deposit sufficient funds in the back to secure those cards. For districts serving parents who live paycheck-to-paycheck raising money with swipe cards is an impossibility.
Near the end of the article, Tim Lyons, CEO and president of TTCU, is quoted as follows:
“TTCU has been serving schools for more than 80 years. We were concerned about how the education funding crisis was impacting schools, and we wanted to do something about it. We’re grateful to be able to help.”
Mr. Lyons short term assistance to districts like Union is commendable. Here’s my hope: when the next election for State legislators takes place and/or the next budget is reviewed in Oklahoma City, I hope that he will band together with other businessmen to get the broad-based taxes in place to restore funding to public schools in his state.