Listen to this article here
This week, Tulsa voters overwhelmingly passed a bond issue that will fund resources, construction and technology for TPS schools over the next five years.
The landslide victory of a 72% yes vote dealt an embarrassing blow to the Tulsa County GOP and other groups working against the bond.
Opposition groups dealt crushing defeat
Both the County GOP and a group called Parent Voice Oklahoma launched a campaign against the bond. Both said their opposition to the measure was a means of demanding a “forensic audit” of the school district.
GOP County Chair Ronda Vuillemont-Smith attended a rally against the bond on the eve of the vote. There, she urged voters to reject the $414 million in funding for students because “many schools were failing” on the state’s report card. Vuillemont-Smith is a resident of Broken Arrow and would not have been eligible to vote in the election.
Parent Voice Oklahoma cited a “lack of transparency” as reason for their opposition. The group said it was the “civic and moral imperative” of voters to “decline excessive spending”. The statement labeled the group as a collective of “grassroots organizers”, though its Facebook page is managed by the Scissortail Community Development Corporation out of Oklahoma City. Tax returns show Scissortail received nearly $1.2 million in revenue and spent nearly $300,000 in wages and employee compensation in 2019.
Members of both the county GOP and Parent Voice Oklahoma have also been vocal advocates for the controversial HB 1775. That bill penalizes teachers for engaging in critical conversations about race in the classroom. Repudiation against the bill was swift, even leading to Governor Stitt’s removal from the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission.
Board member faces backlash for public opposition of bond
Calls for transparency from these groups were also echoed by District 3 board member Jennettie Marshall. In an interview on the evening news while attending the GOP’s protest, Marshall said she was against the bond.
According to board minutes, Marshall voted to approve a public election of the bond resolution on April 5th. The board member made a Facebook post in March soliciting input via direct message. Beyond that, it was not immediately clear that she ever held public meetings with constituents.
Despite her opposition, Marshall’s district will receive more than $50 million in additional funding from the bond.
Critics call efforts to sink bond a “political agenda” to “punish kids”
Backlash to efforts to undermine the bond effort were swift and widespread. Many pointed to the citizen-lead bond oversight committee as a pushback on claims that the process “lacked transparency”.
One citizen who identified themselves as a long-time Republican took to social media to call opposition to the bond “BS”.
“Don’t use a bunch of BS talking points to push a political agenda and punish our kids and teachers,” they wrote. “It’s time Tulsa steps up and does the right thing for the students of this city.”