Tulsa school board calls for May 14 vote on bond issue
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 05, 2013
3/05/13 at 2:27 PM
Read details about the TPS bond proposal
The Tulsa school board put its stamp of approval on the $38 million "Smart and Secure Schools" bond proposal on Monday, meaning voters will soon have their say on the issue.
If approved, 80 percent of the bonds would be used to help Tulsa Public Schools catch up to the technology already available in many of its neighboring suburban school districts.
Every classroom would get a basic set of modern instructional technology - a desktop computer, interactive whiteboard with speakers, iPad, document camera, Internet Protocol TV and wireless Internet access.
"I do not take it lightly when I make a recommendation like this, but I have known for some time we have needed a technology bond like this," Superintendent Keith Ballard told the board. "This is an initiative to support that which goes on in the classroom. It has been made very clear that it is not just about technology and equipment but also about the human support for that technology use."
The school board voted 6-1 on both the calling of the bond election on May 14 and the bond proposal, which was developed by the Citizens Bond Development Committee and based on needs identified by teachers and principals on a districtwide survey.
District 7 member Lois Jacobs, who represents the area encompassing Memorial High School and its feeder schools, voted "No" to both the election and the proposal. After the meeting, the Tulsa World asked why she voted no; she declined comment.
Two individuals signed up to speak. Brian Hunt, a former Tulsa school board president who now works as executive director of an education reform advocacy group called Stand for Children-Oklahoma, said he was there to speak on behalf of his three children, who are TPS students.
"Investments in technology are essential for three reasons," Hunt said. "Technology enhances the love of learning ... It clearly enhances the curriculum and lastly, it helps equip our children to not only compete globally, but to also compete locally."
Second was Susan Harris, senior vice president for education and workforce issues at the Tulsa Regional Chamber, who praised the school district's process of having citizens develop and vet bond proposals.
In the mid-1990s, TPS embarked on a 20-year bond plan to primarily update its facilities, classroom and library resources, and Transportation Department. Only 10 percent of all bond packages since 1996 have been dedicated to technology and in an effort to keep taxes level, the Tulsa district has been much more conservative in its level of bonded indebtedness than suburban districts.
Ballard has said the result is that TPS' funding for instructional technology has suffered in comparison to the suburbs and as such, the district can't provide its teachers and students the same resources.
While the Smart and Secure Schools bonds would increase tax collections by about $40 a year for the owner of a $100,000 home, the Tulsa district would still have a mill levy lower than those in the Jenks, Sand Springs, Union and Broken Arrow school districts, officials said.
Parents and other interested patrons will be invited to attend informational sessions at sites throughout the district over the next two months where the proposed use of new bond funds will be detailed on a school-by-school basis.
TPS Smart and Secure Schools bond issue FAQs
Q: What would the bond issue fund?
A: Classroom computer funds, to be distributed to sites at $337 per pupil, would purchase desktop and laptop computers for a minimum student-to-computer ratio of 3-to-1, and no computer would be more than 5 years old. Also, desktop and laptop computers would be compliant with online testing requirements for new curriculum standards Oklahoma public schools will soon be implementing.
Q: What would the projects' budget be?
- Copiers, printers, scanners and fax machines would be upgraded.
- Tablet computers, such as iPads, and related curriculum for every teacher and principal.
- Library e-books for circulation and downloading on computers and tablets.
- Wireless access at every school and increased Internet bandwidth.
- Fire sprinklers in all 11 facilities with wooden structures that do not currently have them.
- Upgrades to existing fire and intrusion alarm panels district-wide.
- Needed repairs or replacements of security cameras and door systems.
A: Total budget would be $38 million, broken down as follows: Security $3 million, fire sprinklers $4 million, technology $31 million.
Q: What will this cost the taxpayer?
A: The estimated tax increase for the owner of a home valued at $100,000 is $3.38 monthly or $40.50 total for the year. The increase wouldn't kick in until fall 2014.
Q: How was the proposal developed?
A: The TPS Citizens' Bond Development Committee, comprised of parents, other residents, business leaders, teachers and administrators, based the proposed projects on a survey about technology needs that was taken by more than 1,300 teachers and principals.
Source: Tulsa World
Original Print Headline: TPS board calls May 14 election on bond issue
Andrea Eger 918-581-8470