Crooked Oak School District or
a Crooked Education Mafia?
The release of the state audit into the Oklahoma City area Crooked Oak School District showed that it isn’t just the small rural school districts that are being ran into the ground by administrators. The small school district sits on SE 15th between I-35 and Eastern Ave and a state audit turned up hundreds of thousands of spending problems. This News 9 story covers the worst of the findings.
Other school systems are socking away millions of dollars in unspent tax money, far in excess of the allowed 8% to 40% carry over allowed under state law. Generally the larger the district the smaller the amount of carry over allowed with the 40% going for very small rural districts and cities like OKC and Tulsa being allowed a mere 8% carry over.
The carry over is unspent budget money from the previous year that is retained to provide start up capital for the school between the end of the fiscal year on June 31st and the start of the state aid payments in August. The state pays out 11 monthly payments, skipping July as the schools are closed. Schools are generally flush with cash after the January real estate taxes flood in so the schools wisely budget their money over the 12 months.
Other districts like Sallisaw in Eastern Oklahoma have taken the policy to absurd lengths. The chart below documents the rise in excess funds. Sallisaw spent around 15 million per year between 2010 and 2014 but the budget skyrocketed in 2015 to over 20 million dollars. The carry over went from 16% of the budget to 30% of the budget in 2015, far in excess of what is allowed under state law.
Then there is the Luther School District where the superintendent went from a $430,000 carry over to less than $150,000 in the current year due to hiring too many teachers and staff and wasteful spending. Allegations of misspent transportation funds and general funds also led to a current state audit and predictions that the school will default. The school district is currently using warrants guaranteed by a local bank to pay bills as they are dead broke.
The state audit was triggered after a successful November 2015 petition drive and auditors from the State Auditor showed up in August of this year. Local activists say that the school board support has changed from 4 -1 in favor of the superintendent to 3-2 with a swing vote largely intimidated by the superintendent and his supporters.
Last year the district lost between 25 and 26 certified teachers last year with under 900 students enrolled. This year it appears that the number of students has dropped by 100 as locals send their children to private schools or to neighboring schools if they will accept the transfer. A 23% tax increase was rejected by the local tax payers as well, showing the poor support the superintendent is receiving from a fed up citizenry.
The superintendent, one Sheldon Buxton, is said to have a residence at a friend’s house but their kid is sent to a private school in Edmond. A review of voting registration records show that Sheldon and his wife Patty both are registered to vote and do vote in Sallisaw Oklahoma, a good three hour trip from Luther. Weekends are spent in the Sallisaw area and a brief stint as the dean of students for the superintendent wife at $65,000,000 a year, turned into a disaster as she tried to enact draconian discipline and to run off a popular high school principle while coming to work a few hours per day. Massive turn over in teachers and staff, spending $16,000 for new office furniture for the office while having no money for copy paper, and the like have left parents in this community seething.