Thursday, July 14, 2016 9:00 am
The Journal Record
Cities with high-quality public schools are more economically competitive.
Any attempt to attract a company to Oklahoma City includes a discussion about the public school system, and that discussion has an effect on the company’s decision. Quality public schools have an economic impact at every level, from the influence on individuals to the effect on the community as a whole.
The quality of a public school system has an effect far beyond individual academic gains. An educated population results in less crime, improved public health and greater political and civic engagement. An educated population has less unemployment, less dependence on public assistance programs and greater earning and spending capacity. Greater spending capacity results in higher sales tax revenue, which is the primary source of operating revenue for municipalities in Oklahoma.
The quality of the local school district has a direct effect on property values. The link between the quality of the public school district and property values has been demonstrated in neighborhoods of all income ranges, in urban and suburban areas, and for homebuyers with and without children. Higher property values result in increased property tax revenue, which is the primary source of non-grant revenue for school districts, counties and vo-tech systems in Oklahoma.
Mary Mélon of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation recently wrote about the importance of strong leadership to the success of the local public school district.
Oklahoma City Public Schools has had 10 different superintendents in the past 15 years, and has recently named Aurora Lora as its new superintendent. Lora is an excellent choice and is well-qualified for the job. She has a master’s degree in education management and policy from Harvard University and was founder and principal of a low-income, all-girls school. She has held the title of assistant superintendent in two other urban districts, both with similar demographics to Oklahoma City Public Schools.
Lora has what it takes to lead this district to improvement, but she’s going to need engaged citizens and engaged business leaders by her side. Success in improving the quality of the Oklahoma City Public School District will have a positive effect on the economic development of our community at every level.
Cathy O’Connor is president of The Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City.