No chalk? No paper clips? Could it be?
A 4.1% cut is planned the next year, the largest education budget cut for Oklahoma public schools in decades.
With that in mind, the Oklahoma Educators Association performed a recent survey to find out if Oklahoma teachers have seen shortfalls with this year’s existing budget, and asked them how things stand before the additional cuts.
Here’s what a few Oklahoma public school teachers had to say:
- “For the first time in my 26 year career, I asked my science department colleagues to request a lab fee from their students this school year. This was to purchase expendables for labs – not new labs or new equipment. Needless to say, we were very limited on what we could purchase and of course, public schools cannot demand fees or refuse participation to those who do not pay nor would I feel right about doing so. I also did not have enough books to check out to my students, which has been a nightmare – checking out books for students to use for the evening then being short for class when they forgot to bring them back. It has limited me in the amount of material I could cover because I had to allow more class time for students to read chapters and complete what should have been homework. I do not blame my district for the shortfall in funding – I hold the legislature fully responsible; my students have not received quality instruction from me because I was not provided with the funding to purchase materials for labs or books for my course.”
- “Budget cuts have impacted my classroom…and our whole school. We are currently operating on NO supplies. All supplies come either from our own pockets or we must use money we have raised to purchase them. I’m talking about basic things like chalk, staples, tape, paper clips & ink pens. This year, the grand total of our supplies purchased by the school was a grade book and one box of paper. We did receive a few items and one computer cartridge, purchased by a local organization."
- “My largest class size this year is 30 kids. I only have 30 desks. At one time I had 32 kids in that class and one kid had to sit at my podium and one at my desk. I am fortunate that I do not have to clean my own room or drive a bus. I do not have any extra duties at this time. Our supplies have been drastically cut. We have been limited to 20,000 copies a year. When you teach two or three classes and even if you only use desk top copies that is not a lot of copies. IT has been that way for the last 2 years and next year it will be even worse. We have NEVER had a nurse. We have counselors and a media specialist. I have not started writing grants but will next year just to get a few essentials. I know many people in my building who write grants. We do charge an art fee for our art classes. I have asked my kids to bring a ream of paper and box of tissue. This is unfair to those families who have more than one or two kids in school, especially if every teacher is asking for the same supplies. I understand that our education in America is supposed to be “free” but it is hard to teach a kid when there are not enough desk top copies of CORE area textbooks, when the kids do not have supplies like paper, pencils or pens, and when the teacher does not have enough copies for things like test reviews for EOI test or AP tests or even regular tests. In my district we have not received a pay raise in 4 years even though we were promised one. I have more kids to educate with fewer resources. I do the best I can but I am not sure it is enough at times. Our classroom size hasn’t been greatly affected…but we are a small school anyway. We no longer hire substitutes. If we have to be gone, the aides (who are supposed to be helping teachers who need one) are pulled to cover.”
- “Feeling ashamed. That is how I feel about my classroom and the education system. I spend at least 2 hours every day trying to find grants and funds for my classroom. Each year to update my classroom and make it inviting to my students I spend a lot of my own money. I clean my own classroom and have students take turns helping. They are always eager to please, but I am remorseful of the time spent because that is time I could be teaching and time they could be learning.”
Concerning the recent increase in cuts, State Superintendent Janet Barresi had this to say, "Faced with a half-billion dollar shortfall, legislative leaders and the governor had tough choices to make. I appreciate the work they have done in crafting a budget that balances multiple priorities. While a 4.1 percent reduction for education will be challenging, it is less than the cuts that education faced earlier in the legislative session. We’re committed to doing everything we can to ensure that the impact of this reduction on school districts is minimized. This is also an opportunity for the State Department of Education to evaluate the efficacy of programs and to repurpose funds for top priorities. And I will continue to look for ways to make certain that as many dollars as possible go directly to the classroom."
And while all schools and districts may not have a budget headache to this degree, we all have to wonder what lies ahead.