Oklahoma school shelter ballot drive launched

By KRISTI EATON Published: September 18, 2013

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A group that supports building storm shelters in Oklahoma public schools launched a signature-gathering campaign on Wednesday for a $500 million bond issue to fund the initiative.

Take Shelter Oklahoma filed a petition with the Oklahoma Secretary of State's office to place the issue on a statewide ballot. Once the ballot language is given final approval by the attorney general, supporters have 90 days to gather about 155,000 signatures of registered voters.

The plan calls for the debt service on the bond issue to be paid by the annual franchise tax levied on businesses.

“Our purpose here is to help children, not politicize children or exploit children, but to take care of the children in Oklahoma,” said Kathy Turner, chairwoman of Take Shelter Oklahoma, said at a news conference following the filing of the petition.

Turner said there is a critical need for storm shelters in Oklahoma schools. Turner, who was the superintendent of Fletcher Public Schools for eight years before her retirement in 2011, said her first experience with the need was in 1999, when she was an administrator at Bridge Creek Public Schools and tornadoes touched down near the school, killing several people.

Oklahoma is a part of what some call Tornado Alley, a large swath of middle America where tornadoes are most likely to occur.

She said it's not a question of if there will be tornadoes in Oklahoma, but a question of when and where and how destructive.

“It's not a matter of if there's going to be damage. It's a matter of how much destruction, how many people injured and how many people killed. Every year,” she said.

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