This wasn’t the first tornado that hit an Oklahoma school during class time.
The biggest enemy of logic is money.
Everyone can see what needs to be done. But when they see the price tag, often, the value of what should be done isn’t enough to justify the price tag.
I enjoy social media for many reasons. But watching people react to news events may be the most enlightening aspect of the medium.
After the massive tornadoes ripped through Oklahoma this week, the reactions were interesting. A large percentage of posts included well-wishes and instructions on how to help those affected by the storms.
Of course the tragedy of seeing schools demolished was more than most of us could bear. I have a third grader. I can’t imagine standing in his schoolyard hoping he was one of the lucky ones to be pulled out alive. My heart grieves for the families who found out their children weren’t on the list of survivors.
But the most interesting responses were the people who were shocked that those schools didn’t have storm shelters. Only about 100 in all of Oklahoma do.
I went to school in Oklahoma. When did our tornado drills frequently. You went into a hallway or another room away from windows, put your head between your knees and covered your face with your hands. Oddly enough, you would be safe from most normal storms using this technique.
Monday was not normal. It was the worst-case scenario.
State Rep. Joe Dorman, who graduated the same year I did from another school in our county, has proposed a $500 million bond issue that would help put storm shelters in every school in the state.
“If we are going to mandate that our kids must be in school,” Rep. Dorman said. “We need to mandate that they have somewhere safe to go when there is a tornado.”
Of course, his proposal has fallen on deaf ears. It has nothing to do with the Second Amendment, so Oklahoma lawmakers just can’t be bothered with it.
This wasn’t the first tornado that hit an Oklahoma school during class time. It won’t be the last.
Dorman’s proposal is relatively inexpensive – the debt service would be about $30 million a year – and the end result would be positive.
After events like this, I am very happy that every school in Augusta has safe rooms. They are no guarantee of safety, but it beats duck and cover.
Dorman knows his proposal is going nowhere right now. But he is going to work on it all summer and try to get it to the floor in the next session.
But the further we get from the tragedy, the more people forget the pain of losing these students and instead remember the pain they feel when paying property taxes.
I have heard people in this community – who I know voted against the 2008 bond issue that helped build and expand schools that included these safe rooms – who said they are so relieved that Augusta students are protected better than those in Moore, Okla. were.
If there had been a school board meeting on Friday night in Moore and someone had proposed a bond issue to put a safe room in every school, it would have failed. It wouldn’t have even been considered seriously.
For generations, we have been teaching kids to duck and cover and that doesn’t cost any extra.
Monday night, as rescuers dug through the rubble of those schools, that proposal would have made a lot more sense. I’m sure when these schools are rebuilt, there will be safe rooms inside.
But you can’t go to TEA Party gatherings for 18 months and try to get the most uber-conservative representatives elected and then complain because schools don’t invest in safe rooms.
I hope Rep. Dorman is right and his friends from across the aisle will see the need for an investment in student safety during the Oklahoma legislature’s next term.
Let’s just say I won’t get my hopes up.
Kent Bush is the publisher of the Augusta Gazette, the El Dorado Times, and the Andover American newspapers. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org