Tulsa Public Schools cut 286 teaching jobs

A view of the downtown Tulsa skyline. It's not quite so pretty to the 286 displaced teachers of Tulsa Public Schools anymore.

Teachers, don't bring your job search here. Tulsa Public Schools just gave 286 of your kind the axe. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Public school systems across the United States are in financial trouble – witness the school in Rhode Island that recently fired all of its teachers – and now Tulsa Public Schools are part of the disappearing budget act. According to the Tulsa World, 286 teachers (225 first-year teachers) working for Tulsa Public Schools will not be tendered new contracts, but notices of non-renewal. That’s nearly 10 percent of Tulsa Public Schools’ total faculty. It doesn’t even take into account the 125 office and support staff who had already been released. Reports indicate that this isn’t an exercise in discarding dead wood, either. Good teachers are being cast away.

Tulsa Public Schools administrators hope to recall at least half

The system wants to hire back at least half of those teachers in Tulsa Public Schools who aren’t getting new contracts. Yet as the World indicates, the Oklahoma legislature would have to come to a favorable budget agreement. Without that, letting the teachers back in simply won’t happen. They’ll need the best personal loan rates simply to make it each day.

Saving millions, losing a generation

The numbers tell a somber tale – the system is saving $9.7 million after the teaching cuts, $5.75 million on office staff cuts – but the true sorrow is in the story of human casualties. Teachers’ lives have been upended and children will receive much less attention when they are farmed out to other already overstuffed classrooms. The World quotes Tulsa Public Schools Director of Human Capital Roberta Ellis as saying that they’re trying to be kind, then relays the usual platitudes about how it’s tough all around. One wonders how much personal salary Roberta Ellis or any top-level administrator at Tulsa Public Schools sacrificed in order to make sure fewer teachers had to lose their jobs. Sadly, at TPS or anywhere else, cuts almost always come from the bottom.

Baby boomers’ claws do not retract

One of the methods Tulsa Public Schools attempted was offering a retirement/resignation incentive of 18 months of paid health insurance for up to 205 teachers in the system, but only 42 took them up on the offer. Before that, Tulsa extended a $5,000 bonus for any teachers taking early retirement, and 72 accepted. This, unfortunately, was not enough to prevent the layoffs.

The reality of a world torn apart

The Tulsa World quotes the principal of the Eugene Field school, which is within the Tulsa Public Schools system, as saying that some of their non-renewed teachers had literally just purchased new homes. One is a single mother. While some would play the world’s tiniest violin over that image, others might say that it is infinitely more sorrowful to watch administrators go on paid retreats and make golf arrangements. If the children of Tulsa Public Schools end up learning anything after being herded like nameless, faceless cattle into overcrowded classes filled with kids who disrupt class with their behavior, they should know that it’s OK to aspire to being more than a mediocre administrator.

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