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Recent Polls Suggest the Public Wants Mandatory Storm Shelters in OK Public Schools…What do you think?

On May 20, 2013, a devastating tornado struck Moore, Okla., wreaking havoc in the town and killing dozens (37 in total). At Plaza Towers Elementary School, teachers and students crouched in hallways just as they had rehearsed in countless tornado drills as they waited for the tornado to pass. Unfortunately, the tornado was on the ground for 40 minutes and left a path of destruction 17 miles wide and left seven students dead. Based on news counts, the staff members worked hard to cover their students, but the walls came down on top of them.

Oklahoma statistics show that there are more than 50 tornados per year since record keeping began in 1950. Nobody would deny that this is certainly a high number.

Given these statistics and the recent tragedy in the Plaza Towers Schools, putting storm shelters in schools is a hot topic in Oklahoma, and a new survey shows the majority of voters in the state approve of it.

While all schools have a tornado plan in place, few have a true safe room to go to, to ride out a storm.

While this author is not offering his opinion either way, has surveyed 400 Oklahomans within the past month. More than 75 percent say they would support legislation to force districts to put storm shelters in schools, but can’t agree on how to pay for them.

So far, Oklahoma leaders have been reluctant to embrace the idea of state-mandated school or home shelters. Gov. Mary Fallin ruled out a mandate in an interview with KFOR-TV earlier this month, citing the high cost of adding safe rooms to all schools.

To install shelters in all schools, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management estimates it would cost between $500,000 and $1 million, per school. There are over 1,500 public schools in the state.

Again, it’s for that reason Governor Mary Fallin says she does not support mandating schools to have storm shelters, but says she would consider the idea of a voluntary fundraising effort.

In the survey, those who supported a state mandate were presented with three options for funding the cost and asked which they would support. Of that group, about 44 percent favored an increase in the state sales tax, 17 percent opted for higher property taxes, and nine percent supported an increase in the state income tax. The remaining 30 percent declined to choose a financing approach.

“That means that 70 percent (of the mandate supporters) picked one of three taxes to increase,” said Bill Shapard, Jr., CEO of SoonerPoll, an independent research firm that conducts regular public opinion surveys. “It shows that the public feels very strongly about this issue, and thinks it is deserving of raising taxes of some sort to fund it.”

Food for thought….

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