Oklahoma programs for at-risk students lose funding, support
The education budget this year left funding to be desired for some of the state's most vulnerable students.
For Amie Hardy, principal of Jenks Alternative Center, the hardest cut to her program this year is losing the statewide evaluator who pushed her program for at-risk youth to become its best.
It's those kinds of programs again that are getting cut even though they are effective. Almost any program that is effective has some kind of intensity to it, it takes that intensity in order to really support youth and families ... but that intensity is expensive.”
“We're struggling to get these kids everything they deserve, a second chance,” Hardy said. “Will that be supported without the evaluation process? It scares me.”
All alternative education programs across the state, received a direct 4.7 percent reduction in funding. Hardy said the Jenks School District is making up the shortcoming for her program so it won't lose momentum.
But the state also cut $1.2 million from the Oklahoma Technical Assistance Center, which reviews the state's alternative education programs. Hardy said that will be real loss.
“Contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of teachers and programs out there who do appreciate a healthy look at their programs,” said Kathy McKean, director of the Technical Assistance Center. “We've been kind of overwhelmed with letters saying ‘what are we going to do without our evaluators?'”
The center compiled a wealth of data from alternative education centers. It worked to track how students progressed once they entered the alternative programs, which are geared specifically toward keeping students in school and learning.
McKean said her department also lost funding for other contracts, including professional development programs for teachers.
“We will be scaled way down,” she said. “We won't be closed; we have a few evaluation contracts out, so we'd be able to come back if that was wanted.”
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