Gov. Mary Fallin on Wednesday announced her endorsement of a plan to let every school district in the state ask voters to approve a one-time increase in the district's bonding capacity to pay for storm shelters and other school safety improvements.
“Last year, we suffered some horrific storms, tremendous tragedy and the loss of life of schoolchildren and individuals,” Fallin said, citing the tornadoes and storms that struck Moore, Oklahoma City, El Reno and other communities last spring.
The storms killed 50, including seven students at Moore's Plaza Towers Elementary School.
“As a mother, my heart was broken,” Fallin said.
The school security plan will be contained in House Joint Resolution 1092, which is authored by state Reps. Mark McBride, R-Moore, and Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, both of whom represent districts that were devastated by last May's storms.
The resolution is a proposed constitutional amendment that would first have to be approved by the Legislature and then by state voters in the November 2014 election before individual school boards could call elections to fund public safety improvements within their districts.
Fallin touted the plan as preserving the principle of local control of schools, while giving districts the flexibility to address their individual public safety needs.
There are more than 1,800 schools in the state, and 700 already have safe rooms or storm shelters, she said during a speech at The Associated Press legislative forum.
Some schools might want to use increased bonding capacity to construct storm shelters, while others might want to retrofit safe rooms or install metal detectors or bulletproof glass to protect students and school personnel from a shooter, she said.
The plan is an alternative to another proposed joint resolution and constitutional amendment previously put forward by state Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, who has announced he is considering running for governor against Fallin in the upcoming election.
Dorman's proposal, if approved by voters, calls for the state to issue $500 million in bonds that districts could tap to help pay for storm shelters.
The bonds would be paid back with revenues from a state franchise tax or the general revenue fund if franchise tax revenue falls short.