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There are a multitude of problems with the current education system in the United States, and in 2015 according to the Tulsa World newspaper, Oklahoma was 48th in the ranking of education quality in the nation. For the 2016 fiscal year, $62.3 million have been cut out of the state education budget, giving schools less funding. This means districts don’t have as much money to pay their teachers with, pay substitutes with and even just keep schools up and running.
School districts have come up with a variety of measures to deal with the lack of state funding.
138 miles north of Duncan, Enid Public Schools will be dealing with budget cuts through attrition, which is not rehiring a teacher for a position once that teacher leaves, increasing class sizes and decreasing travel expenses for athletics and field trips.
“We have done our best to protect classroom instruction and opportunities for EPS students,” Enid superintendent Dr. Darrell Floyd said, according to an Enid Public Schools press release concerning budget cuts. “It is unreasonable to believe, however, that our students – like those across Oklahoma – will not be impacted by the state’s devastating shortfall.”
This press release says that Enid Public Schools, a 6A district, will be having to endure a $2.6 million loss in state aid for the next school year, and at least $66 thousand will be cut for the administration’s budget next fall.
One way that they are going to be dealing with this budget reduction is shortening the middle school’s school day by one hour.
“Although one less elective will be conducted during regular hours, students will have the opportunity to participate in athletics, programs and clubs from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. on a voluntary basis,” according to the Enid Public Schools press release.
Other measures for dealing with the budget cuts are reorganizing administration and the “elimination of several non-personnel expenses, including printing of student handbooks, which are available online.”
Cache, which has a 4A high school, is 156 miles south of Enid, and Cache schools, like Enid, will be cutting down on the amount of field trips students will be going on. There is also a hiring freeze currently, and Cache is, like Duncan, cutting down on paying substitutes.
“We’ve tried to quit spending as much money as we can,” Cache superintendent Randy Batt said.
Batt said that a total of about 272 thousand dollars will be cut for the rest of this year and next year’s budget.
“Our goal is to keep programs intact and class sizes the same,” Batt said.
“We do have contingency plans so hopefully we just have to tighten our belts a little bit.”
About 60 miles north of Cache, Chickasha has also been dealing with budget cuts in their district.
Chickasha has cut about 200 thousand dollars for their district this year, Chickasha superintendent David Cash said.
“Once you set a budget, it’s hard to find ways to cut it,” Cash said. “There’s not much wiggle room.”
He has projected that Chickasha will be cutting about five percent of the district budget next year.
“Going forward, we’re looking at how to become more efficient and more organized,” Cash said.
Cash said that, at this point, no teachers will have to be laid off and programs and extracurriculars will not be cut. However, they are going to be having several Fridays off that were already a possibility built into the schedule, as they were inclement weather days.
One innovative new practice that Chickasha will be introducing next year is a program called a Personal Learning Campus, or PLC for short. This is a program in which 150 students will be able to take their courses through the computer at their own pace.
“It’s digital but it’s not a traditional online course,” Cash said.
A few teachers who volunteered to participate in the PLC will digitalize their coursework so that students can access it at any time that they need to. The building that will be dedicated to the PLC will house teachers and tutors available to students from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Students enrolled in the PLC can customize their schedules to fit their academic needs, and they can spend as much time as they need to master the course.
“The students are not confined,” Cash said. “If you’re a college bound student, you’re in control.”
Although the innovative practices that Chickasha is implementing are not a result of budget cuts, they are providing examples of new and helpful education ideas that other schools around the state might find beneficial.