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$414M TPS Bond Package Passes Comfortably

Matt Trotter

Voters approved a five-year, $414 million bond package for Tulsa Public Schools in Tuesday's election.

According to unofficial results from the state election board, all four propositions received more than 70% of the vote. By law, bond propositions need at least a 60% supermajority to pass.

"It just means so much to know that we have this resounding commitment to move forward in the next five years to ensure that we have safe and accessible school buildings with the kind of technology and learning materials for every single child in every single school that we need," said TPS Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist.

Supporters pushed hard for the bond issue. The Tulsa County Republican Party publicly came out against it after hearing from concerned parents, party leaders said. TPS Board member Jennettie Marshall said she did not support the bond because of a "lack of transparency" from district administrators.

The Tulsa Regional Chamber was among the bond package's supporters.

"Public schools are the backbone of our northeast Oklahoma economy. This bond renewal for the Tulsa Public Schools district is really a vote of confidence in our region, and it's a $414 million investment in our future," chamber President and CEO Mike Neal said.

The county GOP posted a statement to Facebook after Tuesday's vote.

"Once again low voter turnout and [tens of thousands of dollars] spent resulted in another bond package passing tonight. The fight for accountability continues. We will stand with parents as they demand answers to their questions and continue to push for a forensic audit of Tulsa Public Schools," the post said.

The four propositions included almost $166.8 million for building improvements, $90.7 million for technology, nearly $17.3 million for transportation and roughly $139.3 million for learning materials, which covers textbooks, library books and materials for fine arts, among other things.

The transportation bond proposition got the lowest proportion of votes, with 71.6% of voters in favor.

The 2021 Citizen Bond Development Committee started developing the package in June 2020. Chair Josh Roby said the bond package represents what Tulsans wanted and makes a strong statement coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Tulsa is going to move forward, we're going to continue to support our education, and we're going to prepare kids for beyond graduation, whether that be university or workforce," Roby said.

Several members of the bond development committee will be moved over to a bond oversight committee. It will meet regularly throughout the bonds' five-year lifespans to monitor progress. The oversight committee must approve any changes to bond plans.

The bond package maintains property tax rates at current levels.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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