MAPS for Kids was a short-term solution to bolster the Oklahoma City Public Schools district, Mayor Mick Cornett said during a Wednesday news conference. To keep up the level of improvement and maintenance achieved under MAPS for Kids in the long term, the district needs voters to pass a $248.3 million bond issue on Oct. 9, he said. Cornett, along with Cliff Hudson, chairman of the Oklahoma City School Board, announced the formation of the Citizens for Kids campaign to convince voters to go to the polls and approve the bond package.
Tax and education valuesIf the proposal passes, new bonds will be issued as the MAPS for Kids bonds are paid off, and the tax levy will remain the same, Hudson said. "This will not increase our citizens' taxes,” he said. But if the bond issue does not pass, the tax level would slowly decrease over about five years, he said. The bond issue is necessary so the district doesn't slide back to where it was before MAPS for Kids, Hudson said. "(The district has) assets in the order of a billion dollars. It's no different from my business; it's no different from this (downtown) library; it's no different from the city; it's no different from your home,” Hudson said. "If you don't maintain it, its value goes down.”
High thresholdStill, getting enough votes won't be easy, Citizens for Kids leaders said. Sixty percent of voters must vote "yes” for a school bond issue to be approved, according to the state constitution. That's why the campaign aims to raise $400,000 to sponsor community meetings, engage PTA groups, mail pamphlets and pay for advertisements, Hudson said. Two weeks into the campaign, about 20 businesses have helped Citizens for Kids raise two-thirds of that, said David Bialis, finance chairman for the group and president of Cox Communications of Oklahoma. Bialis said he expects the group will need to spend more than $400,000 for the campaign. "I don't think there is a ceiling on it because when you need to get 60 percent, that's a tough challenge,” he said. Companies like Bialis' are important to the coalition because businesses depend on educated employees and because the city depends on a quality education system to attract new businesses, said J. Larry Nichols, chief executive of Devon Energy Corp. and chairman of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, a partner in the Citizens for Kids campaign. The bond issue would last about six years, and at that point, voters could expect to see another bond issue to keep funds flowing for continued maintenance and improvements, Hudson said.
Time is rightThe group hopes the bond issue will keep up the momentum that MAPS for Kids infused into the district. Cornett said much has changed since 2001 when MAPS for Kids began. He said the city has placed a higher priority on education, teachers are more likely to want to work in the district, and the school board's audits have been clean and its reputation improved. Hudson added that new schools have been built, others have been renovated, alternative school programs were expanded and standardized test scores have gone up. "If you think you can or you think you can't, you're probably right,” Cornett said. "This is a district that (went from one that) thinks it can't to a district that thinks it can. This is a district of great optimism. "These are the types of projects we think will get the district to the next level, and we need your vote.”
What would $248.3 million buy Oklahoma City Public Schools?50 more classrooms 47 gyms across the district to accommodate growth New school buses New heating and air conditioning systems Technology and safety initiatives