OKCPS bond issue
(Josh McBee)

Please, please don’t forget to vote this Tuesday (or before) for the Oklahoma City Public School System bond issue. The bond issue will not raise taxes. It will allow the OKCPS to raise $189 million dollars for essential capital investments. It is on a separate yellow ballot.

Most of the OKCPS bond money ($106.3 million) will be used for maintenance at 78 buildings. The money will:

  • repair or replace air-conditioning and heating systems at schools;
  • repair or replace roofs;
  • repair or replace electrical and plumbing utilities;
  • fund fine arts and athletics (equipment, uniforms, materials);
  • and help develop playgrounds.

The rest of the money will go replace school buses that are an average of 10.5 years old, having driven about 200,000 miles, as well as provide new technology for schools.

Voters must succeed where Legislature has failed

Participating in the MAPS for Kids process 16 years ago, I saw what happened to the OKCPS infrastructure when bond issues failed to pass in a timely manner. MAPS for Kids belatedly prevented the collapse of the school system. It also provided a promising first step toward increasing student achievement, which, unfortunately, was undermined by the federal No Child Left Behind Law of 2001 and subsequent state underfunding.

The capital improvements MAPS funded weren’t perfect, but we must be clear on this issue: The shortcomings of the bond-funded projects were due to an economic boom in China that raised the prices of steel and other materials. The OKCPS did an excellent job in revitalizing its physical plant. That money was well-spent. Now, the problems facing OKCPS are due to aging.

For too long, state leaders have tried to shrink government to the point where it can be drowned in a bathtub. It’s sad that voters must step in and do so many jobs that the Legislature failed to address.

Although voters may feel overwhelmed by an already lengthy ballot and opt to skip the yellow OKCPS bond ballot, we must not let that frustration interfere with our duty to vote “Yes” for our children’s schools.