On June 8th, 2021, Tulsans will vote on the 2021 Bond for Tulsa Public Schools, a set of meaningful investments developed and overseen by a group of committed community members on the Citizen Bond Development Committee. If passed by Tulsans, the proposed 2021 Bond package will invest $414 million over five years to support every child and every school.
The proposed 2021 Bond builds on the successful 2015 Bond and is broken out into four propositions: Safe Learning Environments, Student and Classroom Technologies, Student Transportation, and Quality Learning Materials and programs.
Each proposition has a number of projects that were identified by the 2021 Citizen Bond Development Committee as integral to supporting students to achieve college- and career-readiness.
“The entire Tulsa Public Schools district is represented with members from every corner of the district,” said Greg Shaw, member of the 2021 Citizen Bond Committee and chair of the Safe Learning Environments subcommittee.
The committee is made up of 36 members - from parents to business owners - who started meeting virtually in June 2020 to learn about the bond propositions. The members of the committee listened as a variety of district teams presented their projects and shared information about how those projects would serve Tulsa children, teachers, and families. While district teams provided information about opportunities for investments, the committee members ultimately made the decision about which projects to include in the 2021 Bond package.
“We had a lot of conversations over ‘Is this equitable?’ ‘What were some of the things provided in the 2015 bond?’ ‘Are we continuing to back some of these programs that have already started?’ We are finishing up what was started in 2015,” Shaw said.
“There was a lot of discussion. There were things like, ‘Do we really think this is a worthwhile expense?’ There were some things that ended up being left off the bond proposal. It was obvious our opinions mattered,” said Misti Ryan, Quality Teaching Materials and Programs subcommittee chair.
Ryan said she didn’t know how bonds worked before she joined the committee, but went in with an open mind because making sure the students at Tulsa Public Schools have the resources they need to succeed is important to her.
“We learned that whatever we were going to approve for the bond, based on the very educated people who brought this information to us and who do the work everyday, we were assured that bond money would be spent exactly as we had intended it,” she said.
“We dove into what the projects are. We created maps of the district to see where each project would be. What kind of project? We did that so we could look at what schools are being touched and that no school was left out,” Shaw said.
Bond money can only be used for brick and mortar construction, durable goods, and/or technology, not for salaries or routine expenses. With that information, the 2021 Citizen Bond Committee considered the outcomes of the successful 2015 bond in their evaluations of potential investments.
“Without the previous bond, we wouldn’t have had the access to all the Chromebooks that allowed many of our students to learn from home during the shutdown. Think of where we’d be if they hadn’t been able to switch to digital learning,” Ryan said. “That was something we kept at the forefront, knowing that we could already see what a great resource the 2015 bond was, and that was just something that made it even more important that we got this right.”
The global pandemic made not only remote learning, but remote work, a necessity. They said the bond invests in the technology needed to create not only successful students, but a successful Tulsa.
“How can you create 21st century students without the necessary tools,” Shaw asked. “I think this investment is needed and will pay dividends through a better trained workforce in Tulsa while we are trying to attract businesses and get people to stay in Tulsa and have our graduates not only go to college, but come back to help Tulsa grow in general.”
If voters approve the 2021 Bond, a 2021 Citizens Bond Oversight Committee will be created. The group will meet bi-monthly throughout the bond’s five-year life to monitor progress and hold the district accountable. Any changes to the projects are reviewed and approved by the oversight committee.
“The oversight committee is the way for citizens to stay as an accountability, oversight, and transparency monitor of the 2021 Bond for Tulsa Public Schools. This doesn’t all just happen at the board level. These parents, grandparents, business owners, will all be involved in the progress and making sure the projects are getting fulfilled as they were sold to the public,” Shaw said.
For both Shaw and Ryan, being a part of the 2021 Citizen Bond Development Committee was a way to invest in the future of Tulsa students and the city.
“I would hope the city of Tulsa agrees that making sure our kids have access to the right resources and enough resources that they would see that as worthwhile and want to support our students,” Ryan said.
“We need to keep moving forward. Our kids and educators deserve for us to keep progressing. To me, this bond is supporting and investing in our educators and our kids,” Shaw said.
The bond election will take place onTuesday, June 8. Click here for more information about the 2021 Bond propositions, projects, committees, and to see the 2015 Bond transparency report. If you have plans to travel in early June, the deadline to request an absentee ballot is Tuesday, June 1, and early voting is available at the Tulsa County Board of Elections on Thursday, June 3 and Friday, June 4.