Bulldog Business: Wagoner schools funding takes cut from state (Wagoner Tribune)

by Randy Harris

The start of a new school year is always such an exciting time. Our staff is invigorated at a fresh opportunity to get know the children of our community and excited about the academic progress the children will make in a year’s time.

But, as you’ve probably heard by now, Oklahoma is in the midst of a major teacher shortage. Our school district has a great staff committed to the success of students. Our district’s leadership has worked hard to make sure every student has a great teacher and that every class has an optimal learning environment.

Still, no Oklahoma school district has gone untouched by the combination of the teacher shortage, rising costs, and tightening budgets.

A new survey from the Oklahoma State School Boards Association found that districts are trying to fill about 1,000 teaching vacancies. About 600 teaching positions have been eliminated since last year, and many districts are increasing class sizes, reducing the number of courses offered, and seeking emergency teaching certifications.

At Wagoner we have not been severely impacted yet, but we will soon.

We are receiving a cut in state funding of $366,000 this year. That is approximately 7 teachers’ salaries. According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, if our district were to receive the same per pupil funding now as in 2008, we would receive $2,000,000 more dollars this year alone. Rather than looking to provide more opportunities for our students, we are being forced to reduce our teaching staff.

Every district in the state has had to make difficult decisions. The applicant pool continues to shrink, as more teachers retire, teachers move out of state, and college students choose other career paths.

Districts’ reliance on more inexperienced teachers also means we must carefully plan and offer more support to help these teachers be successful. Since the State has cut their Mentor Teacher program, we are in the process now of developing our own within our district. But to make this be successful, teachers deserve a stipend for spending time with new teachers. It’s hard to find money to pay teachers when our funding is continuously cut.

Our schools are a critical part of the community, and we need your help to make our students as successful as possible. In addition to volunteering your time and energy with students, we also need your help to garner more support for public education.

Public education in Oklahoma desperately needs our state leaders to step up with a long-term plan to fund education so we can support our students and teachers.

Please let your state representative and senator know you want a greater commitment to public education in Oklahoma. They need to know you want strong public schools that meet the needs of every child. They need to know you support long-term funding plans that allow us to better pay our hard-working teachers and make teaching an attractive career choice for students as they consider their futures.

We can, and simply must, do better for students.



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