Byng Schools prepare for drastic funding cuts (The Ada News)

By Carl Lewis

Officials at Byng Public Schools are bracing for fallout from repeated budget cuts as the state’s budget failure continues to drain resources from already cash-strapped Oklahoma schools.

In a letter sent home with students, Byng Superintendent Todd Crabtree told parents the district has already lost more than $250,000 in funding this fiscal year.

“We’re trying to save every dollar we can,” Crabtree said Wednesday by phone.

Following a similar move by Ada City Schools, Byng will shorten its calendar year by four days, ending instruction on Friday, May 13. Senior activities and graduation ceremonies will continue as scheduled.

In the letter, officials informed parents that, even if legislators are successful in limiting budget cuts to 5 percent for the 2016-2017 school year — a promise made by Republican House Speaker Jeff Hickman last month — the district will begin the year with $640,000 less in funding.

“It’s political posturing,” Crabtree said. “We’re not seeing anyone making any moves to do anything about this.”

The loss could mean increased class sizes, elimination or reduction of bus routes and the loss of before and after school extended hour programs, according to the letter.

“We certainly don’t like the idea of increased class sizes beyond what we have now,” Crabtree said. “But these cuts are forcing us to do things that are not in the best interest of our students.”

He said the district is committed to allowing students to finish any programs started during the current school year, citing band and FFA as examples of extracurricular programs with statewide competitions in which Byng students already participate.

Next school year, however, may be another matter.

“We’re not sure if we’re going to be able to sustain all of our activities,” he said.

Local schools have been hit hard by the ongoing budget crisis, which shows no signs of abating anytime soon.

Byng Public Schools joins East Central University, Seminole State College and Ada City Schools on a growing list of educational institutions that have announced changes designed to help them cope with funding cuts.

Byng resident Tommie Postoak’s son attends sixth-grade classes at Byng Junior High School. She said she believes district officials are doing everything they can to try to deal with the shortfalls, but said she’s not so certain about state lawmakers.

“I have the utmost respect for, and confidence in, our administrators and teachers,” Postoak said. “I know they’re doing everything they can with what they’ve got, but [state lawmakers] have forgotten how important our children’s education is to our future.”

Postoak said she feels legislators have prioritized other things over education, citing a round of raises received by state agency heads in 2013 and 2014 — specifically mentioning state tourism director Debbie Snodgrass’ $40,000 salary increase — and questioning what has happened to state lottery funds that she said were promised to go toward public education.

A 2014 Oklahoma Policy Institute analysis of the subject by Gene Perry concluded that the lottery helps some, but the boost it provides is far less than what has been cut from other revenue sources.

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