Sequestration cuts lead to bigger classes, shuttered arts programs in schools

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Every time the sky opens up and rain pours onto the strawberry fields of rural Stilwell, Okla., Rocky Mountain Public School can count on getting soaked.

It rains through the leaky cafeteria roof. Sometimes, water gets in through the door.

The school was built around 1965. Because of the federal government's so-called sequestration budget cuts, much-needed building updates have been delayed indefinitely. The principal, Margaret Carlile, said replacing the roof is too expensive. So when the clouds come out, teachers scramble for buckets. The ceiling tiles inevitably turn brown and saggy and have to be replaced -- a job still cheaper than a new roof.

Ninety percent of Carlile's students come from low-income families, and 90 percent of them identify themselves as Native American. That means that the school has a tax base, Carlile said, that "is pretty much non-existent." Meanwhile, Oklahoma has cut state funding to her school by 22 percent since 2009, she said. So the local education system relies on funding from the federal government more than most other public school districts.

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