Tulsa Education: July 2005 Archives

The recall campaign is over but yard signs are still sprouting up around midtown Tulsa. The campaign is not aimed at the general electorate, but at the board of Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) and the committee putting together the next school bond issue, slated for the November ballot.

A group of parents of Edison High School students are pushing for the inclusion in that bond issue of a $1.3 million "lightweight" football stadium for the Edison campus. Currently, Edison uses LaFortune Stadium on the Memorial High School campus as its home field. Memorial, Washington, East Central, Webster, and TSSC (formerly McLain) each have a football stadium on campus, and all but TSSC share the field with one other high school. In the past, TPS also used Skelly Stadium as a home field, and played home games on both Thursday and Friday nights. (Perhaps they still do, but I couldn't find a schedule from last fall to verify that.)

Proponents of a stadium for Edison have put together a detail-rich website, advertised on the yard signs. (I commend them for making the signs' type big enough to read while passing at 35 MPH.) They argue that the stadium can be funded without raising taxes by reallocating funds targeted for upgrading existing stadiums.

As impressed as I am by the website (which focuses on detail rather than flash), I am unmoved by their arguments. This is a telling passage:

An interesting fact is that TPS and the bond development committee have not once argued that this stadium is unnecessary because it would not benefit the students. They must clearly understand the benefits, but choose not to act on behalf of Edison students by funding this project. Instead they continue to channel much needed funding away from schools in need, toward schools which already have established championship athletic programs.

Notice that they contrast "need" with "already have established championship athletic programs." I have a hard time seeing the creation of a championship athletic program as a need.

Another page presents Google satellite images of the existing high school sports complexes. The writer observes that other sports facilities at schools with football stadiums are of higher quality and better maintained than equivalent facilities at the "have not" schools and implies that the presence of a football stadium would improve the general athletic situation at Edison.

I'm not inclined to put any of the upcoming bond issue towards athletics. Repairing or renovating academic facilities ought to be the highest priority. My mother was a kindergarten teacher at Catoosa Elementary School for 28 years, and I can remember her frustration when the school board put a lighted baseball field and a new high school gym ahead of fixing the roof and installing air conditioning for the WPA-era elementary school.

If you're going to spend bond money on athletics, it would make more sense to fund modernization and improvements to existing stadiums rather than build another facility that will require maintenance and, eventually, modernization and improvements.

The bond development committee should keep this in mind as it considers including an Edison stadium in the bond package: Tulsa's taxpayers sent a strong signal last December, when they rejected the library bond issue, that they aren't interested in paying for "wants" right now. If a stadium is included, it could cause the defeat of that part of the package. The bond issue will be split into several different ballot items, and the committee should be careful to separate academic projects from athletic projects, and perhaps put an Edison stadium on its own ballot item.

And before someone complains that East Central got a stadium in the last bond package, it should be remembered that the residents of the old East Central school district were promised a stadium decades ago (1960s?) when the district was annexed into the Tulsa district.

Even if the stadium is included in the bond package, building a stadium on the proposed site may require a zoning change, a special exception, or a variance to permit the stadium and to meet parking requirements, and there's no guarantee that the school district will get the necessary approvals.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa Education category from July 2005.

Tulsa Education: August 2005 is the next archive.

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