In 2001, voters passed a bond issue that drastically changed Oklahoma City's public school system, approving a sales tax that directly funded education, and many concerned citizens slept soundly knowing their voices were heard.
Larkin Warner played a significant role in this process, as detailed in his new book, "MAPS for Kids: A Citizen's Initiative." The work by Warner, a retired Oklahoma State University economist, documents the history of MAPS for Kids, which began as a small, concerned committee and later evolved into a program that raised more than $700 million for public schools.
One of the committee's instrumental leaders, Warner will sign copies of "MAPS for Kids: A Citizen's Initiative" at 6:30 p.m. today at Full Circle Bookstore, 1900 Northwest Expressway.
The MAPS for Kids Committee dedicated itself to rebuilding Oklahoma City public schools by monitoring physical structures, district administration, student achievement and community relations. Warner said the city school system had almost deteriorated by the time a court order forced district leaders to comply with desegregation rules.
"The public school system had gone through quite a traumatic period with segregation in the 1970s," he said.
The following decades brought an even more neglected school system, he said. By the 1990s, constant bus breakdowns and deteriorating school buildings inspired a small group to join together and create the Project KIDS Committee, in which leaders researched successful school districts across the country and attempted to emulate them. In spring 1999, Warner was asked to help with the project. His book focuses on the committee's goals, and the history of the MAPS for Kids initiative.
The title details the committee's efforts in convincing political, civic and business leaders of MAPS for Kids' importance " an initiative that later culminated with voters finally approving the sales tax. Warner fondly remembers opening local newspapers at the time and almost always finding an article about another school being rebuilt or another local pledging their support.
He credits the support of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, as well as the majority of Oklahoma City citizens, for the significant change.
"This is a matter of the community really coming together," Warner said. "That alone makes this unique."
For more information, call 842-2900. "Paige Lawler