A Decade After OKC's MAPS For Kids, What Happened To The Money?

Thursday, August 23rd 2012, 3:18 pm
By: News 9

It's been more than a decade since voters agreed to invest millions of dollars into local schools, and News 9 is asking what happened to all that money.

MAPS for Kids was approved in 2001 and the $514 million program promised hundreds of construction, transportation and technology projects, all for the benefit of Oklahoma City's public school students. Voters also approved a $180 million bond issue to fund additional projects.

The temporary sales tax was collected for seven years with 70 percent disbursed to Oklahoma City Public Schools and 30 percent to suburban school districts including Edmond, Norman, and Yukon.

News 9 has learned money from MAPS for Kids is still being spent on new or updated buildings and fresh technology for classrooms.

Jim Burkey, Chief Operations Officer for Oklahoma City Public Schools, says many projects are still ongoing despite some delays and roadblocks along the way.

As of mid-August, 42 new or renovated school projects are complete. Burkey says three projects will be finished sometime next month, and 20 other sites are still under construction. Five more schools are still in the planning stages. Most of the construction should be wrapped up by 2014, according to Burkey.

There have been challenges.

Construction is behind schedule at Nichols Hills Elementary, and students were forced to report to a different location for the first day of the new school year.

"Most of the parents that I talked to are just frustrated that they didn't get information out to us sooner," Christi Rosell, mother of a 3-year-old student at the school, said.

This isn't the first time the district has had to do this. Construction on MAPS for Kids projects routinely runs behind schedule.

"Anything from supplies to manpower to weather; there's a lot of different factors that come into play in regards to construction," Oklahoma City Public Schools spokesperson Tierney Tinnin said.

MAPS for Kids also promised new buses.

Following the vote, Oklahoma City Public Schools purchased 65 new buses to replace old and worn out buses in the fleet. The district is still replacing the buses every six years, instead of every 10 years, according to Transportation Director Scott Lane. He also credits the passing of a 2007 bond issue for keeping the buses new and outfitted with cameras and GPS equipment.

Technology was also another promise that came with MAPS for Kids.

Fifty-two-million dollars went toward thousands of new computers, laptops, and technology that are still being upgraded today.

"Right now most of the money is being spent on infrastructure" said Oklahoma City Public Schools Chief Information Officer George Kimball. "That includes wiring for the buildings, phones for every classroom, and security for the computers."

Kimball says there are 23 projects going on right now involving new technology, and it's going to cost additional funds to keep all those new computers and laptops updated.

"In the future we'll still need to look at bond issues for replacement computers," Kimball said.

Read more about MAPS for Kids in the annual report from the city.