OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – There are several local and statewide elections on the ballot in November, but Oklahoma City residents will also have an opportunity to vote on a major bond issue.
Bond issues allow school districts to pay for improvement projects, repairs and needed renovations over time instead of all at once.
“Where are the gaps? Where do we fall short? What equipment do we need?,” said Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) Superintendent Sean McDaniel of the district’s assessment and decision to pursue the bond issue.
For Oklahoma City Public Schools, the current issue would be the biggest bond election in the district’s history.
Residents who reside within OKCPS boundary limits are eligible to vote on the bond package, which includes two propositions:
- $936,000,000 to provide funds for acquiring, constructing, equipping, repairing and remodeling school buildings, acquiring school furniture, fixtures and equipment and acquiring and improving school sites; or an alternative of acquiring all or a distinct portion of such property pursuant to a lease purchase arrangement;
- $19,000,000 for acquiring transportation equipment; or an alternative of acquiring all or a distinct portion of such property pursuant to a lease purchase arrangement.
“[For] brand new schools, brand new classroom additions, flexible spaces [that money] was the price tag to meet the needs,” he said.
The $955 million bond includes money for property planning and renovations for school buildings and equipment, but nothing specifically geared to improving student academic performance, though school officials indicated the bond issue is part of a “multi-approach” to addressing the educational needs of its students.
“[This bond issue] gives our kids an advantage. When you have learning spaces and facilities and equipment, when you can purchase new cutting-edge technology, where you can buy your band kids, band equipment… All of those things matter combined with great people and great programming [will improve the process],” said McDaniel. “We’re lagging right now. We don’t offer opportunities like surrounding districts do, yet we expect our kids to compete with the surrounding districts for jobs, for scholarship opportunities, for university placements. So if we’re going to expect that, we believe it’s it’s incumbent upon us to provide the same level of opportunity.”
An independent review shows that while the district ranks in the top percentages for population and enrollment, it lags in several other academic rankings, compared to other districts around the state.
In a meeting Monday, the Superintendent said not passing the November bond proposal could have long-range implications for the district.
“The downside to it not passing is we’ll have to look for other funds to try and do those things,” he said.
“And we’re really limited in other funds. I mean, typically it’s your operating account, which is what we use to pay our teachers, pay all of our employees. So if we don’t have bond funds to take care of these reoccurring costs that kids need, we either do it out for long periods of time or we have to dip into other funds that are dedicated to other things,” McDaniel continued, citing the district’s operating account which is also used to account for teacher and staff salaries. “We’re going to look at the glass as half full and really begin planning for this bond election to pass.”
“OKCPS kids deserve what we can give them that every other district around us has, “added OKCPS board chair Paula Lewis.
OKCPS serves approximately 34,000 students in 32 elementary schools, 13 middle schools, eight high schools, four alternative schools and six charter schools.
The first meeting, to be held at Star Spencer Mid-High, will highlight the projects at Star Spencer Mid-High, Rogers Middle School, Spencer Elementary and Willow Brook Elementary.
The presentation will also include renderings of major construction projects and time for community input.
Spanish interpretation will also be available at all the meetings.
The deadline to register to vote in the November 8 election is October 14.