Tulsa Passes Technology Bond, $110mil for Student Devices

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Tulsa Public Schools successfully sought the approval of a $415 million bond from voters, the largest in the district’s history.

A quarter of that, $110 million, will go towards technology updates for the district in an effort to ensure each student has a laptop or tablet to use while on school grounds.  The devices would be kept at school to guarantee student access to them during school hours.

TPS Senior Bond Project Manager Ellen Duecker said, “This is our entire funding for student technology, we don’t have any other funding from the state to buy computers.”

Duecker went on to say that having a knowledge of how computers operate will offer students the ability to compete in the job market once they graduate from high school.

“Over 85 percent of our students are on free and reduced lunch, so many of them don’t have multiple devices in their home on which they can work. So it’s important for us to make sure that all our students have access to the materials they need,” she said.

Students at Clinton Middle School already use iPads during the school day.  Teachers report the students showing a higher focus during class time and that absences have gone down.

Factored into the bond are upgrade costs for the devices.  The school currently replaces textbooks every five years, and the same system is planned for the new technology.  The bond will also cover networking costs as well as upgrading every classroom to contain appropriate equipment.

The bond will also cover construction and transportation within the district covering the next five to six years.  Of the money asked for, $240 million will go toward school upgrades including the removal of 75% of the classroom trailers in the district and replacing them with permanent classrooms, writes Angela Hong for Fox 23.  All new construction will also classify as storm shelters.

The rest of the funding will be split for various uses, with $19.8 million going toward libraries, $139 million for classrooms and $17 million for transportation.

In addition, a new school will be built, new school buses purchased and a centralized STEM center constructed.

Tax rates are expected to remain the same after the approval of the bond.

Public school officials had high hopes for the bond passing despite low voter turnout.  The last bond election for the district was held in May of 2013.  At that time, 10% of eligible voters turned out and the bond at that time passed by 66%.  The district spent the past few weeks promoting the bond on TV and social media in an effort to appeal to voters.

The bond needed to receive 60% of the vote in order to pass. There is not expected to be another bond election in the state until 2020.

Brian Paschal, Senior Vice President of Education and Workforce for Tulsa’s Regional Chamber, said passing the bond could attract more high paying jobs to the area.

“I think whether you are talking about public safety or increased property values or increased sales tax revenue or just overall quality of life for Tulsa at the center of all of that is a strong public education system,” Paschal said.