Voters in Tulsa, Okla., will decide whether to approve a $90.7 million bond to fund a K-12 classroom technology overhaul. If the bond measure passes, the funding will be doled out over the next five years.
The proposed funding for student and classroom technologies is part of the 2021 Bond for Tulsa Public Schools, a $414 million investment that is made up of four propositions targeting different aspects of K-12 education:
- Proposition 1: Safe Learning Environments ($166.8 million);
- Proposition 2: Student and Classroom Technologies ($90.7 million);
- Proposition 3: Student Transportation ($17.3 million); and
- Proposition 4: Quality Learning Materials and Programs ($139.3 million).
In materials explaining how the bond financing will be employed, Tulsa Public Schools said the funding to improve student and classroom technologies will be used to “ensure that all of our students and schools have the educational technology that 21st century learners need and deserve.”
Among other measures, Proposition Two includes $54.7 million for technology for teaching and learning, $31.4 million for network, systems, and security upgrades, and $2.7 million for “other projects to enhance student and classroom technology, project management supports, and fees.”
In addition to more traditional transportation funding, Proposition Three also includes $1.1 million for software, cameras, and WiFi for school busses.
Proposition Four allocates $11.5 million to strengthen science, technology, engineering, and math programming in all schools and upgrade STEM labs across the district.
“Education is evolving. We have to keep up with what’s happening so that our students have a competitive edge, and this bond would allow us to do that,” explained Ebony Johnson, Tulsa Public Schools chief learning officer. “I feel like programs supported by these bond dollars would also increase our engagement, and we’ll have more students coming to school. It will also take off a lot of stress and pressure on our teachers who really want to do some really cool stuff but may have some constraints as a result of lack of funding and lack of materials.”
Before landing on the ballot, the Tulsa Board of Education voted to hold a bond election for voters to consider the $414 million 2021 Bond for Tulsa Public Schools.
“Bonds have become a critical source for funding the day-to-day maintenance and operation to help our district create great teaching and learning experiences for every student,” Tulsa Public Schools Board President Stacey Woolley said when the board voted to hold the bond election. “Bonds provide safe and state-of-the-art classrooms, libraries, and stadiums, high-quality classroom technology, and importantly this year, support investments in building ventilation and other COVID-19 safety enhancements.”
Tulsa is not the only school district turning to voter-approved public bonds to fund needed IT upgrades.
In April of this year, the Wisconsin Rapids Public Schools (WRPS) Board of Education saw voters approve two referendums totaling $32 million which will help fund technology and curriculum updates, as well as facility projects that are “too costly to be funded through the district’s annual budget.” In November of 2020, San Antonio voters approved two bond measures worth nearly $1.3 billion for education funding for the San Antonio Independent School District. New Mexico voters also signed off on additional education funding this past November. Voters approved the General Obligation (GO) Bond C, which provides for more than $155 million in higher education funding, including $51.4 million for the University of New Mexico.