Oklahoma City school district needs regular bond issue plan

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: March 28, 2013

ALL over the Oklahoma City metropolitan area in the past few years, voters have consented to school bond issues. Already this year, voters in Edmond and Putnam City approved bond issues for land, construction and technology. That's no surprise.

Edmond, Putnam City, Midwest City-Del City, Moore, Norman and other school districts across the state routinely seek voter approval to keep up with growing student populations, infrastructure improvements and changing needs. Up the turnpike, Tulsa Public Schools is in the planning stages of a technology focused bond issue that could go before voters as early as May.

In Oklahoma, school bond issues aren't just a way of life. They're critical for school districts of all sizes to upgrade infrastructure or even afford maintenance items such as roof replacements or heating and air system improvements. More often than not, voters understand that bond issues are necessary and approve them, despite the 60 percent supermajority requirement for approval. Most school districts simply need regular bond issues to survive.

So it's concerning that more than a decade after the passage of MAPS for Kids, Oklahoma City Public Schools has yet to establish a routine of asking voters to approve bond issues. Oklahoma City learned the hard way what happens when a school district accrues years and years of deferred maintenance. Buildings deteriorate. What would have been a simple fix turns into a complex and expensive job.

Approved in 2001, MAPS for Kids included a sales tax and bond issue — a rare combination for a school district. The dual approach allowed the school district upgrades it never could have afforded with just a bond issue. Six years later, voters OK'd Yes for Kids, a follow-up effort to add classrooms and gymnasiums at elementary schools. Work on the original MAPS for Kids projects is nearing an end. The 2007 bond work got off to a painfully slow start, but it is under way.

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