Proposed cuts to the TPS budget could be affecting the students who rely on Indian Education funding
*The following story has been corrected to reflect a date change on meetings that consider Indian Education staffing.
TULSA, Oklahoma–Under the current structure of Indian Education in Tulsa Public Schools, about seven resource advisor teachers are serving 3,000 Native American Students, but on Tuesday night Jan. 21 it will be the last opportunity resource advisors have to advocate in open meetings for their jobs and student services.
The final decision is expected to take place during a special Board meeting to be held in mid-February of the Board of Education, Independent School District Number One, Tulsa County, Oklahoma, according to Tulsa Public Schools Media Relations Manager Lauren Partain.
The meeting will be held in the Cheryl Selman Room, ground floor, at the Charles C. Mason Education Service Center, 3027 S. New Haven Avenue, Tulsa, OK.
TPS’s proposed restructuring of the federally funded Indian Education program could reduce that advisory staff to just three positions with no guarantee those educators would be Native American or chosen from the current team.
The Indian Education programs at Tulsa Public Schools are made possible by two federally funded grants – Title VI and Johnson O’Malley (JOM). These grants provide educational services and supplemental programs to students with Native American heritage.
The program provides a Native American focused curriculum to students in addition to essential things like supplies, uniforms, tutoring or testing.
Tulsa Public Schools Resource Advisor Teresa Parker said serving the cultural and educational needs of 3,000 is difficult enough with the current staff size. She also serves as the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association Indian Education Representatives.
“There is no guarantee that any of us would be getting those positions,” Parker said. “It’s public knowledge right now that they have already posted the positions that they plan to replace us with.”
Tulsa Public Schools has frequently shifted the focus of the Title VI funds.
“These are federal funds,” Parker said. “I don’t understand how that is saving the district money to get rid of a program that is bringing things in for the kids, not taking it away.”
Change has been a continuous element for the Indian Education Department. From job duties to the physical location of the department, employees have had to adapt and adjust constantly.
“It has changed every year that we have a new person in charge,” Parker said. “Our assignments have changed every year that we’ve been there.”
“But everything that we do is supposed to support the students culturally and academically.”
According to TPS Indian Education Resource Advisor Shari Williams, the explanation given by the TPS school board is flawed. She said TPS told her it was a matter of saving money.
“They still intend to have a program; they still intend to receive those funds,” Williams said. “So, they are still going to have to provide money upfront.”
Williams said that the school is required to pay for the programs upfront, then the district is reimbursed through Title VI and JOM awards.
“We don’t understand this logic at all, and to get notification of reassignment makes us feel betrayed,” Williams said.
“We could just really use everyone’s support,” Parker said.
TPS school board meetings are public meetings. In addition to cuts to Indian Education Staff, a Tulsa Public School with one of the highest Native American student populations in the district is set to be considered for closing at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 21.