By: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief
The Sand Springs City Council considered a request from Councilman Brian Jackson to help fund a field-trip for Sand Springs Elementary students Monday evening at their regular August meeting. The outcome wasn’t what Jackson was hoping for, but it was still a positive result.
Jackson submitted a request that the City add Junior Achievement BizTown to Resolution 16-30, which authorizes the City to make arrangements for funding and participation of City officials in public events that are in the best interest of the City and promotes the goals and objectives of the City.
There are currently nineteen events/expenses that are authorized by the resolution, including Oklahoma Municipal League conferences, National League of Cities conferences, Mayors Council of Oklahoma conferences, The Oklahoma Academy, Sand Springs Chamber of Commerce membership, and Tulsa Metro Chamber membership.
Adding BizTown to the list would allow the City to redirect funding from the Hotel/Motel tax reserve to the Economic Development budget. Had the resolution passed to add BizTown to the list, Council would then consider a request by Jackson that a total sum of $3,625 be given to Sand Springs Public Schools for the purpose of sending 145 students from Northwoods Fine Arts Academy and Garfield STEAM Academy to BizTown in January, 2017.
BizTown opened in Tulsa in March 2003 under the name “Exchange City.” A city within a city, BizTown is a 6,500 square foot facility that houses a miniature “city” ran by fifth grade students. BizTown students spend approximately four weeks preparing for their trip, learning curriculum centered around financial literacy and work readiness. On January 17th and January 20th, students from Garfield and Northwoods respectively would visit the BizTown facility for a total of four hours where they will work jobs, collect a paycheck, and live like adults.
Some of the career-fields available inside BizTown include banking, working for a newspaper, policing, working in the food industry, City Government careers and more.
The BizTown program costs Junior Achievement $50 per student. The schools provide half of that cost and Junior Achievement raises the other half. Local philanthropist Mike Case, of Case and Associates, donated $3,625 to Junior Achievement to help fund the Garfield and Northwoods students, but the schools still have to raise their half of the funds.
While the Council recognized the quality learning environment that BizTown provides, their concern was that it wasn’t the place of the City to use Public funds in such a manner. “I’m not quite sure it’s a city responsibility,” said Councilwoman Patty Dixon. She went on to suggest that local civic groups and businesses should be contacted for help, and that the Council could help in being a voice for the program.
Councilman Jim Spoon was more direct in saying “I can’t see that it’s not a charitable donation.” The resolution specifically states that charitable donations are not allowed to be made with the funds.
“I see it as a partnership opportunity with our public schools that are hurting,” said Jackson. Jackson, who is the Development Manager for Junior Achievement, had also attempted to get BizTown on the resolution when it was initially passed in April. The Council voted to pass the resolution as-is by a vote of 5-2-0 with Jackson and former Councilman Dean Nichols voting against.
Council also pointed out that this money has already been budgeted, and rather tightly. “If we’re going to do something like this, we need to find a better way,” said Councilman Phil Nollan.
Nollan, Burdge, Dixon, and Councilman Beau Wilson each voluntarily committed to sponsoring four kids apiece out of their own pocket. David Charney, President of Capital Homes was also present at the meeting for an unrelated matter and personally pledged to sponsor ten kids.
With twenty-four kids down, Sand Springs schools still needs to find donors for the remaining 119. Citizens wishing to make a donation can send checks to the Board of Education building at 11 West Broadway, Sand Springs, OK 74063. Please note "Garfield/Northwoods JA Biztown" in the memo line.