SCHOOL superintendents have never seen anything quite like it. Each month brings more bad news about the state of the state’s economy, and along with it, orders to keep cutting school budgets. But at the same time, the federal government is pouring an unprecedented amount of money into schools, and voters throughout Oklahoma continue to pass school bond issues despite the tough times. Steven Crawford, executive director of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration and a former longtime superintendent, said the public has been incredibly supportive of local schools in a time of great need. But neither that nor the federal money can ease the pain of the state’s economic woes. "If things keep going the way they are, it’ll be the worst financial year for schools in my 38-year education career,” Crawford said. Last week alone, voters approved more than $129 million in bond issues for schools across Oklahoma to help pay for new schools, building repairs, technology, other equipment and buses. That’s a substantial amount of money at a time when many taxpayers are struggling to make financial ends meet at home. Voter resilience is even more impressive looking back over school elections throughout 2009. Voters have OK’d more than $465 million in bond issues for districts statewide so far this year. At least four districts — Mustang, Deer Creek, Pawhuska and Putnam City — saw approval of the largest-ever bond issue packages put before each district’s voters. The ballot box victories are critical and a bit of silver lining in the overall school funding picture. Bond issues are the primary way schools finance capital improvements and transportation, and also can be a big source of technology funding. Most districts try to regularly put bond issue propositions before voters to keep up with maintenance and so property taxes stay level. The separate funding stream for capital improvements is somewhat of a blessing in times like these. Schools are enduring budget cuts, forcing districts to take a tough look at planned purchases, travel and programs. Even deeper cuts could come because one of the main funds earmarked for education is nearly empty. Then there’s the quandary of federal funds. The state has received millions in stimulus money, and some of that was used to help fund schools this year. Schools also are getting record amounts of federal money for special education and to educate poor students, but that money comes with many restrictions. The financial boost is temporary, so education officials are wisely leery of expanding or creating programs that they might not be able to afford without the federal help in two years. Tulsa officials have said they are receiving about $10 million more in federal funds this year while expecting to lose as much as $4 million in state revenue. Among all the financial uncertainty, one thing is for sure: this school year is one superintendents won’t soon forget.