Lawmakers stall funding allotments, local schools struggling to budget - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Lawmakers stall funding allotments, local schools struggling to budget

Lawton_April 1 is the day the Oklahoma Legislature was to let public schools know how much funding they would receive - it did not happen.  Now schools must plan the coming year's budget without knowing how much money is available.  Schools typically hire new faculty and staff at the end of the school year in May and June, but with no budget, it's difficult for them to know how many new teachers they can afford.

Elgin Schools and Lawton Public Schools (LPS) are struggling to budget with an indeterminate amount of funding for the 2009-2010 school year.  Elgin Schools are growing, and with more families moving to the area because of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), and other expanding industries, Superintendent Tom Crimmins says they will not cut any teachers.  "We reemployed our teachers in a March board meeting, and are anticipating probably having to hire even additional teachers for next year because of the growth that we're expecting," he said.

LPS is anticipating a growth of about 500-700 students from kindergarten through 12th grade, but don't know what schools the students will attend, or how many new teachers they'll be able to afford.  "We don't have any clue at this point how we are going to staff the schools," said Superintendent Barry Beauchamp.  "At least the staff we have, currently, and probably some place between 20 and 50 teachers depending on how they come in."

The district must ensure they have enough teachers for all of those kids, and they cannot cut back on those salaries right now.  "Staff salaries are going to run about 85% of your budget anyway, so you're kind of locked into it - to hiring your staff and making your budget cuts somewhere else."

Cuts can include transportation and spending on school supplies, and Crimmins says they may only offer first-year teachers one-year contracts.  Beauchamp says waiting to hire new teachers means missing out on some very good teachers.  "We end up going into July, and we still attract quality teachers, but we have situations where we miss some teachers we would like to hire along the way because we don't know that we're going to have adequate funding to do so," he said. 

Lawmakers say the budget process has been slowed by an estimated $900 million shortfall, and trying to work in $2.6 billion in federal stimulus money.

Count on 7News to keep you updated.
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