TPS considering technology focused bond issue

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Updated: 1/17/2013 3:33 pm Published: 1/17/2013 2:32 pm

Tulsa Public Schools announced the results of a recent survey of more than 1,300 teachers, principals and support staff about classroom technology.

While almost 60% said classroom technology is "very important" in impacting student achievement, 39.1% rated the effectiveness of current classroom technology in the district as below acceptable levels.

This prompted the TPS Board of Education to appoint a 20-member bond development committee to study the feasibility of a technology-focused bond initiative, possibly in May 2013.

Other survey findings include:

• 27.8% said they have classroom technology that is not being utilized. Reasons cited were "broken or missing pieces" (54.7%); lack of training (24%); and a shortage of supplies (23.7 %).

• 30% rated the district's current technology training as "ineffective," in spite of the fact that more than 60% classify technology training as "very important."

• 64% said there should be a "standard classroom" design, where all teachers across the district by grade level would have access to the same technology and curriculum delivery systems.

• Current funding is inadequate for consumable items related to classroom technology (i.e., printer toner, bulbs for interactive whiteboards, etc.), with nearly 60% of teachers and principals saying materials are "scarce." 64% said they often pay out of their own pocket for these items due to budgetary constraints.

• 58.7% said it's important that students have access to "virtual" instruction.

• The current quality of technical support received an average rating of 2.91 on a 5-point scale, which is slightly below an "acceptable" rating.

"In the 21st century classroom, student achievement is inextricably tied to technology and our children's ability to successfully navigate in a digital world," said Dr. Keith Ballard, superintendent. "I have long suspected that there are growing disparities in the availability of technology resources at TPS when compared with neighboring school districts. Our students will pay a heavy price if we don't do something to catch up. With the right tools, I believe our teachers can leverage classroom technology to improve student performance and substantially improve achievement. That is why the TPS board has acted quickly and responsibly to appoint a committee to explore the possibility of moving forward with a technology bond initiative."

In 2010, Tulsa voters overwhelmingly approved a $354 million bond package for the school district, with most of the money being spent on facility renovations, repairs and heating and air conditioning. The district has spent approximately half of the $354 million bond that was passed in 2010, with $172 million earmarked for facility, classroom, library and transportation projects.

Tulsa Public Schools currently has $89,375,115.71 in additional bonding capacity available.

"Bonds, by their very nature, are restrictive in how they can be spent," said Bob LaBass, director of bond projects and energy management. "School districts are limited to spending dollars only in the categories in which they were voted on and approved. The Technology Bond Development Committee is working to determine whether or not they will recommend to the TPS board that we proceed with a 2013 bond initiative related to technology. There are some dollars from the 2010 bond that could be applied toward technology. We have not yet determined a dollar amount should we choose to proceed with a 2013 bond."

According to LaBass, TPS currently has a sinking fund rate of 23.45 mills, which is used for the retirement of existing bonds. This is lower than all the adjacent districts, even though TPS has a larger bonding capacity given its size (see chart below).

School District Sinking Fund Levy
TPS $23.45
Owasso $27.06
Broken Arrow $28.62
Union $30.70
Jenks $31.74

The survey was conducted from Dec. 7-14, 2012, with 1,357 teachers, principals, other certified and support staff participating. Nearly 80 percent of the participants were teachers in both primary and secondary schools; more than 10 percent were "other certified staff"; eight percent were support staff; and nearly 2 percent principals.

A final recommendation by the bond development committee is expected sometime in February.

A complete copy of the survey results may be found on the TPS website at <>.

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