OKLAHOMA CITY -- A little more than seven years ago, Oklahoma City voters took an extraordinary step -- agreeing to pay extra sales tax to rebuild the city's failing schools. That sales tax goes off the books at the end of this month.
Former Oklahoma City School Board Chairman Cliff Hudson spoke at Wheeler Elementary school, built in 1910, and, at one time, a poster child for the district's crumbling schools.
Until November 2001, Oklahoma City Public Schools were in a hole when taxpayers approved a $500 million facilities upgrade five brand new schools, dozens of renovations and expansions; 75 projects in total.
"Four of the five new building have been done," Hudson said. "They are probably 12 to 15 renovations that have been done. There are at least 20 or 25 works in progress, one degree or another."
Students at Wheeler are happy to be in one of the schools where renovations are complete. Hudson said, while MAPS for Kids never promised to produce greater student achievement, he believes these students can't help but feel better about going to school now.
"It's a human thing to feel differently about the quality of the experience you have when the quality of the physical surroundings are elevated," Hudson said.
In addition to helping kids, MAPS for Kids was intended to benefit the city as a whole by showing businesses considering an investment in Oklahoma City that it is a city that values quality education.
"So I don't think it's any coincidence then that in this decade you now see quite a bit of investment in new job creation in Oklahoma City because people see the city investing in itself, it's cultural life and it's educational life," Hudson said.
Almost a year now since leaving his board post, Hudson still follows the progress of MAPS for Kids and thinks, seven years after its passage; taxpayers should feel good about what's been accomplished.
"I also think education of our young people is a permanent work in progress, so work is never complete, but the physical side of this has gone extremely well with MAPS for Kids," Hudson said.
MAPS for Kids officials said, so far, they have spent about $240 million on school construction projects. They expect to finish on budget and on schedule in about three and a half years.