OKC school closures still possible


Oklahoma City Public Schools are back in session and the rest of the state will follow soon. However, even though the doors are open now at all the schools that may not be sustainable as the budget situation facing schools grows worse.

From teacher shortages to potential school closings Oklahoma City has faced and is still facing tough decisions on how to balance the budget.

“This is just a really challenging time to work for a school district in the State of Oklahoma,” said Superintendent Aurora Lora.

Lora did not just step into a time of financial troubles for the state’s largest school district; she stepped up and pushed to lead the district at a time when others had abandoned it.

Stepping up is a theme Lora is now seeing from others in the community.

“What's been positive about this is we've had a lot of people step up and say we want to figure out a solution and waiting for this to get taken care of at the legislature we just don't know when that is going to happen,” Lora said.

Some Oklahoma City leaders have proposed raising local sales taxes to fund raises for city teachers, who have had the notion of pay increases dangled in front of them for years only to have legislative leaders pull it back at the last minute time and time again.

Add to that the ongoing disappointing budgets that don't allow for new text books and allocations that do not and cannot take into account the fact school enrollment is growing.

“This has been going on for a while, but the problem is getting worse and worse every year,” Lora told FOX 25. “Not only do we have low pay, but as the funding for our districts continues to go down we are being faced with having to raise class sizes, cut instructional resources. The working conditions here are getting harder and harder. We've got to put a stop to this.”

There is not much good news in terms of funding or the future of the state’s investment in education; but there is hope.

That hope is found in the dedication of the teachers and staff that do more with less - and the community that's come to the aid of schools.

Take the case of North Highland in Oklahoma City. It was facing closure earlier in the year because there simply were not enough quality applicants to fill all the positions. The community reaction helped bring light to the crisis and managed to rally educators to the school which allowed the district to keep the school open.

Other communities have also rallied to save their schools from closure; at least for the time being.

The underlying problems remain and the solutions so far have been a band aid on a wound that keeps growing.

“It's coming back we're going to have to revisit the conversation in October,” Lora said. “Because, as of right now we're still having to make cuts for the coming year and the outlook for the future does not look that much better.”

That means school closures and consolidation are still possible

“I know that is not a popular solution, but at the end of the day I have to make sure I am doing the best thing I can for kids,” Lora said.

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