Voters approved all four parts of Tulsa Public Schools’ five-year, $414 million proposal Tuesday.
According to unofficial returns released by the Oklahoma State Election Board, each proposition received at least 70% of the votes cast. State law requires a 60% supermajority for school bonds to pass.
“I just want to express my profound gratitude for Tulsans as a whole for showing their fierce love of children, their passion for public schools and their appreciation for teachers and support professionals,” TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist said. “We had more community engagement than ever before in terms of development and presentation to Tulsans.
“It means so much to know we have this resounding commitment to move forward over the next five years with safer, more accessible buildings and updated technology and learning materials in every single school for every student.”
Receiving 12,731 votes or 72.34% of the ballots cast, Proposition 1 will provide $166.8 million for buildings, including $30.5 million for security improvements across the district, 17 new roofs, cafeteria upgrades at all nine high schools, interior renovations at eight campuses, accessibility upgrades under the Americans with Disabilities Act and funding for maintenance and repair needs.
Proposition 2 will provide $90.7 million for the district’s technology needs, including software licenses, network security upgrades and classroom devices, such as Chromebooks, tablets and document cameras. Garnering 12,748 votes, it passed with 72.61% approval.
Proposition 3 will provide $17.3 million for transportation needs. Along with new school buses and spare parts for the district’s current vehicles, the proposal includes funds to purchase additional smaller vehicles for each secondary site to help ferry students to Tulsa Community College and Tulsa Tech and on other school-affiliated trips. It received 12,488 votes or 71.61% of the ballots cast.
Passing with 12,836 votes or 72.94% of the ballots cast, Proposition 4 will provide $193.3 million for learning materials and programs, including $3.5 million for teachers’ professional development, $8.8 million for library materials, $12.1 million to provide annual additional per-pupil funds to support site-specific programs, $2.7 million for new outdoor classrooms and playgrounds, $9.6 million for fine arts programs across the district, and $29.9 million for textbooks and curricula.
The proposal will keep property tax rates level and replace the district’s 2015 bond package, which is scheduled to be retired in August.
A parent of three TPS students, Josh Roby is chairman of the Citizens Bond Development Committee for the 2021 proposal.
The all-volunteer committee, which helped shape the proposal, was able to reduce the length of the bond by one year by putting $51 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds toward ventilation improvements that otherwise would have been included in this year’s package.
Along with thanking voters, Roby encouraged Tulsans to stay involved with the bond development and oversight process.
“I would encourage people to continue to be engaged, whether it is in oversight of these packages, working with their school board representatives or when it comes time to develop the next bond package,” he said.
“Stay engaged. Just because the election day has passed doesn’t mean that the engagement has to go down.”
Citing TPS’ declining enrollment and disagreements with the district’s decision to remain in distance learning for more than a semester, the Tulsa County Republican Party formally opposed the proposal and co-hosted a rally outside the Education Service Center on Monday evening.
In a statement posted to its Facebook page late Tuesday, the party leaders said they would continue to call for accountability from TPS leadership and for a forensic audit of the district’s finances.
After the polls closed Tuesday evening, Gist acknowledged the concerns raised by Tulsa County Republican Party leadership.
“The concerns they shared about accountability … we are very confident in the way in which we can respond to that,” Gist said. “The accountability we have in place and the transparency we have in place that we are very sure that once they see that and understand that, … they’ll be able to be confident in the investment that they’re making in our public schools through these bonds.”