March 3, a Debt to Tulsa Public Schools or “No, No, No, and No”

A special election will be held this Tuesday, March 2, 2015 (ballot here).  From the coverage in the press, there seems to be no real opposition.  The election is for a $415 million dollar bond issue for the Tulsa Public Schools.  The proceeds of these bonds are to expand libraries, kitchens, classrooms—basically, maintenance issues and adding “technology” to the classrooms—i.e. laptops, tablets, and computers for every student.  Really?  A portion of the funding would also be dedicated to a STEM (that’s Science Technology Engineering Math) center…or as I refer to it, “Drone Training”.  You can see TPS’s letter to Santa here.  You’ll note the absence of actual classical liberal arts learning that comes from exposure to the humanities.  Liberal Arts and critical thinking are not high on the priority list of state-run educational prisons schools.  Why is that?  Most likely, the student who thinks critically will grow up to be the adult that asks inconvenient questions.  This is not, however, an entry on the short sidedness of the educational establishment’s monomania on math (that’s another entry).  It’s a question of money and value.

Regardless of whether a person’s children attend school within the district, every property owner is taxed to fund the local school (that’s how it works in Oklahoma), those taxes then flow downward to customers, renters, and other transacting business within a give district.  The citizens are being told that it “won’t affect anyone’s property tax rates…”.  This is true, on its face.  No one’s tax bill will go up upon the passage of this bond but what they don’t tell you is that some of the District’s previous bonds are about to be retired, which means that a cut in property taxes was on the way.  They count on the fact that most people are fine with the status quo and won’t bother to look ahead to see what kind of a tax cut they could have had.  As a rule any time someone from any government agency tells you “it won’t affect your tax rate…” know that you probably have a tax cut coming and the government is trying to get into your wallet ahead of time rather than asking you for a raise in taxes at a later date.  Witness the campaign behind the recent “Vision 2” proposal (which, mercifully, failed) and its promises of not being a “tax increase”.

The good news is that it requires a supermajority (60% approval) and that typically, there is a low turnout for elections that are single issue.  So if many no votes were assembled, the School would be forced back to the drawing board to come up with a better use of its funding and, perhaps answer the question: “Why do you need more of our money?”, or further “What are you doing with the money you’ve been taking from us?”  Perhaps the conversation could start with the salaries of the non-teachers at TPS.  You’ll find that information here (type “Tulsa” in the district box, leaving the other fields blank, then sort salaries high to low, click through until you find the first classroom instructor).  It’s worth noting that the when one sorts the salaries of every TPS employee from high to low, the first FIFTY (50) entries are over $100,000 annually.  Guess how many are instructors?

News story here.