The progressive response here to the idea of creating a bond issue to pay for storm shelters in schools seems somewhat tepid to me so far, but I think it’s a worthy proposal that deserves support.
At the very least, it’s a proactive approach to an extremely important issue, especially following the tornadoes last spring that destroyed two Moore schools and leveled hundreds of homes. A tornado on May 20 killed seven children at Plaza Towers Elementary School, which didn’t have a storm shelter.
What other large-scale plan to protect school children from the dangerous weather here is seriously under consideration right now?
The plan to get shelters in schools, announced by state Rep. Joe Dorman, a Rush Springs Democrat, involves taking the issue straight to the voters through an initiative petition drive to “create a funding program for the project via a $500 million bond issue that would be paid for by the state’s franchise tax,” according to a media release.
The franchise tax, a tax companies pay to do business in the state, has been suspended in recent years for legal reasons, and there were efforts to outright repeal it in the last legislative session. According to the media release, the tax generates $40.1 million annually.
While the funding mechanism for the bond issue might seem problematic to some people, especially conservatives who favor tax cuts for businesses, the basic idea of doing something to save children’s lives is as straightforward as it gets.
“Dedicating this tax to help fund the construction of school shelters would be a great way to kick-start the process of protecting our kids from Oklahoma’s severe weather,” Dorman said.
Schools will be surveyed to determined their storm shelter needs, and informational sessions are planned, according to the release.
Oklahoma desperately needs large-scale initiatives to get storm shelters not just in schools but in virtually every structure in the state. Tornado season might be over right now, but it will return, and many Oklahomans will not have adequate protection when disaster strikes again. At the very least, Dorman’s plan keeps the conversation about tornado safety alive.
As I noted at the beginning of this post, I’ve not seen a great deal of support from Oklahoma’s progressive community for the proposal. Perhaps, there’s more than I suspect, or I’ve just missed it. It might be a timing issue as well, and support will emerge in coming weeks. I do think the proposal has merit and deserves consideration. It seems to me the alternative is what this state does after all its numerous weather disasters: nothing.