Like Most Other States, Oklahoma Programs for At-Risk Students Grapple with Budget Cuts

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Juveniles programs across the nation deal with cutbacks at the start of fiscal year 2012Like many state-run juvenile programs across the nation Oklahoma’s alternative education and at-risk student initiatives have had to deal with the realities of budget cuts following the start of the fiscal year on July 1.

Times are tough everywhere, and in some states tougher then in others. But a glimpse at the specific cutbacks in the Sooner State can give one a sense of just what kind of pain supporters and participants of some crucial programs are in for.

Gone is 4.7 percent of funding for alternative schools, a combined $385,000 from Tulsa alternative programs, and $1.2 million from the Oklahoma Technical Assistance Center.

For principal Amie Hardy of the Jenks Alternative Center the most devastating blow wasn’t the 4.7 percent budget reduction, she told NewsOK, but rather the loss of the statewide evaluator that pushed the school’s alternative programs to be their best. In Jenks' case, the 4.7 percent budget shortfall is being picked up by the Jenks School District.

The Oklahoma Technical Assistance Center, which reviewed the state’s alternative education programs, has “been kind of overwhelmed” with letters from citizens concerned about the loss of the evaluators. The center also lost funding for other contracts including professional development programs for teachers, Director Kathy KcKean told NewsOK.

Street School Program in Tulsa, Okla.

A truancy program and a 'Street School' program ran by the Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau, two initiatives that served some of Tulsa’s most at-risk students, faced cuts of $200,000 and $185,000 respectively. The 'Check and Connect' truancy program, designed to keep tabs on students at risk of skipping school, was scaled back from serving five schools to just three.

The cuts to Street School, an alternative education program for roughly 90 youth that deal with life issues that distract for education, accounted for about 15 percent of the programs total budget.

Oklahoma's Schools Activity Fund covers alternative programs and accounts for a portion of the state's $2.27 billion education budget. The schools activity budget was reduced from $419.8 million in 2011 t0 $401.2 for fiscal year 2012. A breakdown of all the cutbacks by category is available here.

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