By Melva Little, Superintendent – Fort Supply Public Schools
As superintendent of Fort Supply Public Schools, I am concerned to see education used as a platform for anti-wind energy activists to criticize an industry that has been nothing but positive to Fort Supply Public Schools, and I suspect, many other rural districts across Oklahoma.
To openly disparage an industry providing tremendous economic benefit to not only local schools, but county governments and Oklahoma landowners, is unfair. I know the benefits of the wind industry because I live it every day in my school district.
Since 2003 the wind industry has invested more than $7 billion in Oklahoma and established itself as a vital contributor to education funding in numerous rural school districts. Millages for the support of local school districts make up the majority of ad valorem tax revenue paid by wind developers.
Last fall the State Chamber of Oklahoma Research Foundation released a study, authored by Oklahoma State University economists, indicating over the 25-year average span of current and future wind development projects, the wind industry is predicted to pay nearly $1.2 billion to local and county school districts and to Oklahoma CareerTech.
Educators across Oklahoma are rightfully concerned about the current and future state of education funding; however, the wind industry is not to blame for Oklahoma’s budget challenges. Wind power is providing a much needed extra layer of funding, a “windfall” so-to-speak, for local schools to utilize for capital and personnel needs. Because of the long-term power purchase contracts and the 20-year minimum duration of wind energy assets, a long-term extra source of revenue for many school districts has been made available.
Before the arrival of the wind industry, the budgets of many small districts such as Fort Supply provided only the bare necessities. The wind industry has been a godsend in my district and many others. Policymakers at the state Capitol, and those in the private sector not familiar with the industry, need to know how fortunate educators and children are that have the opportunity to teach and attend school in an area that has been graced by the positive economics of the wind industry.
I have faith the Legislature and Governor Mary Fallin will continue to support the wind industry and recognize its enormous value to Oklahoma schools and the future leaders we are educating.
Melva Little is superintendent of Fort Supply Public Schools.