The Norman Transcript

August 30, 2013

School shelter drive looking for signatures


The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Some Oklahoma school districts have built storm shelters and safe rooms into their building programs. Others have not gone to the extra expense to retrofit older school buildings.

Two groups are now pushing to require school storm shelters and to provide funding for them. State Reps. Mark McBride and Jon Echols, have set up a nonprofit, Shelter Oklahoma Schools, to fund shelter construction. Now, another lawmaker is pushing for a statewide vote on school construction.

A petition drive to allow a bond issue to fund school shelter construction kicked off this week. Organizers need more than 160,000 signatures to get the constitutional amendment on the ballot.

That’s needed because the Constitution doesn’t allow the state to pass a bond issue to benefit another governmental entity, such as a local school district.

State lawmakers could pass a bond issue to fund construction. Lawmakers in the past have been hesitant to take on any more debt. They have turned down efforts to borrow to repair the Capitol building and finish the American Indian museum that sits unfinished at Interstate 35 and I-40.

State Rep. Joe Dornan, D-Rush Springs, is pushing the effort. He previously introduced legislation for a $500 million bond issue, with $400 million of that amount going to pay for storm shelters in public schools. The remaining $100 million would fund another program to homeowners and group home facilities with building shelters.

We don’t doubt that the petitoners will be successful. It will then take a statewide vote to set the bonding in motion. Individual districts could opt in or out of the program, depending on their needs.