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Public school leaders say bond issue will boost education without raising taxes



Continuing the momentum of MAPS for Kids was the message at an economic development lunch Wednesday where discussion of Oklahoma City's upcoming bond issue election formed the main course.

Cliff Hudson, chairman of the Oklahoma City Public Schools board, and Superintendent John Q. Porter spoke at the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber-hosted event in downtown's Beacon Club.

Officials said they probably were speaking to the choir in encouraging voting "yes for kids" Oct. 9, but noted passage requires 60 percent approval.

"It's probably all about turnout," former chamber chairman V. Burns Hargis said.

If passed, the issue would not raise taxes, but would continue tax rates in place from ending Maps for Kids bonds. The $248.3 million package includes:
 " $212 million for adding 47 elementary school gyms and more than 50 classrooms,
 " $21.1 million for technology upgrades,
 " $7.3 million for transportation upgrades and
 " $7.9 million for improving security.

When asked whether lottery funding could cover these expenses, Porter said only two-thirds of 1 percent of the district's revenue comes from the lottery.

At recent school board meetings, some members have cited challenges in convincing constituents to support the initiative despite a need to pass it. At the lunch, Hargis said he believes a "no" vote would stop positive momentum in the city "in its tracks."

Porter stressed increasing accountability in city schools. The district is looking at student assessment options that can provide feedback more immediately and ways to get more teachers nationally certified. OKCPS needs to focus on education from birth, he added.

"We want to get that foundation in place," he said. "Emily Jerman

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