Voters in Tulsa Public Schools ought to continue their decades-long support of bond issue projects by passing the $414 million package on June 8.
Approval will not raise taxes; it replaces retiring bonds and would continue improvements as developed by a 35-member citizens committee. It contains four proposals:
Proposition 1 would provide $166,755,000 for buildings; proposition 2 calls for $90,695,000 for technology; proposition 3 calls for $17,295,000 for transportation; and proposition 4 would give $139,255,000 for teaching materials and programs.
Details within each one include items like exterior lights, redesigns of high school cafeterias, marching band uniforms, auditorium upgrades, new playground equipment, athletic uniforms, digital marquees at schools and wireless internet on buses.
TPS and surrounding districts pass bond issues to pay for needed infrastructure and enhanced amenities for a better learning environment. Dwindling state funds are largely used for teacher and staff salaries and benefits.
Through bond projects, TPS has been able to ensure safety of buildings through roof repairs and additions doubling as storm shelters. It also provided bolder projects such as stadiums, new school buildings, a STEM program and collegiate centers.
Homeowners of a $100,000 house pay $23 a month for TPS bonds, a good deal for what the district is able to provide. Approval of the package will not change that amount.
Since the 1990s, TPS voters have increasingly supported bond packages.
The most recent bond issue passed by more than 80% in 2015 and was its largest at $415 million. It emphasized technology but included projects like multi-purpose field houses and new libraries.
TPS depends on bonds for building improvements with the average age of a facility being 61-years-old. Of its buildings, 60% are older than 50 and 19% are more than 80.
Technology improvements have become a critical part of education. The pandemic uncovered a significant gap among its students, with one-third having little to no home internet access. The bond will help bridge those inequities.
The TPS system of developing and overseeing bond issues put into place years ago has been effective at providing transparency and building trust.
Two volunteer oversight committees contain local experts, parents and civic leaders as stewards and watchdogs over the funds and projects. It’s a way to get eyes from outside the administration on the projects.
For Tulsa to be successful, it needs a robust public school system. All residents benefit by having well-educated graduates ready for college and the workforce.