Eastern Oklahoma Schools Struggle With Shrinking Funding

  • Joe Wertz

The state will spend less on public education in 2012, a nearly 4.7 percent drop in funding that is forcing teachers and administrators scrambling to find cuts with the least affect on kids.

Reporter Cathy Spaulding documented such efforts in Eastern Oklahoma, where some schools haven’t bought textbooks in years and aren’t filling the slots of teachers who retired or resigned. Classes start Thursday for many schools in the area.

“The cuts are very real,” Fort Gibson School Superintendent Derald Glover told the Muskogee Phoenix. “Even with the cuts, we’re in a $300,000 deficit mode.”

One of the hardest hit school districts, Midway, will receive about 23.2 percent less than it did in 2011, according to records from the Oklahoma Department of Education. Hilldale schools will receive roughly 10.5 percent less, records show.

Muskogee school administrators have telling teachers to tighten their belts for years, principal Dewayne Pemberton told Spaulding. The district there will receive about 8.6 percent less than it did in 2011, a year that also brought $1.38 in federal stimulus funding.

Pemberton said schools were trying to save money on utilities with a “Go Green Initiative,” wherein everyone was asked to turn off lights and unplug unused electrical equipment. A similar effort in Hilldale saved nearly $400,000, Spaulding reported.