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Economic Gurus Suggest Continued Investment in Education, Senate Leader Issues Challenge to Heed Advice

Citing recent advice from economic experts, a Senate leader is urging continued investment in education to boost Oklahoma's economic fortunes, particularly its personal income.

"Every time an economic expert analyzes our state, the advice is the same: Invest in education if you want your economic growth to continue and your personal income to rise. I for one am going to make sure we heed that advice, and put education at the top of the legislative agenda again," said Senator Darryl Roberts, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.

The Ardmore legislator, who is currently working on an education funding and reform program for the 1998 legislative session, cited three recent examples of such advice.

  • Speaking at the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce Economic Roundtable this month, economist Mark Zandi of Regional Financial Associates urged Oklahoma to invest in education and job training, noting the state's business costs were already very low. Zandi said Oklahoma will not be able to attract the most-favored, high-tech industries without developing a highly-skilled work force.

  • Financial World magazine ranked Oklahoma 43rd for its "Educated Labor Supply" and 4th for its "Cost of Doing Business."

  • A study by Mastercard International gave Oklahoma high marks for its "low cost of doing business" (labor costs, real estate, utilities, taxes, etc.), but rated the state poorly for its "skilled workforce," noting the low percentage of Oklahomans holding college degrees.

"It's really a pretty simple equation. If we're going to land the high-paying jobs and boost our personal income, we have to build a highly-skilled work force," noted Senator Roberts.

"We've heard this advice before, and although we've been following it in recent years, our work is far from over on the education front. Unfortunately, we still have one of the most underfunded school systems in the country and that's hurting our economic development efforts."

The Senate budget leader cited U.S. Census Bureau statistics that ranked Oklahoma 46th in the country when it comes to per pupil funding.

"Funding isn't the only answer, of course, but it's a crucial part of the education equation that can't be neglected. You have to put forward a coordinated mix of reform and resources because all the directives in the world, without any funding to back them up, won't get us where we need to be. Our schools need money to buy books and computers, but unfortunately, money is in short supply," said Senator Roberts.

The legislator is currently drafting an investment program for education that he will propose for consideration during the upcoming legislative session.

"Some people like to talk the talk on education, but they don't always walk the walk. I'm going to be urging everyone to stand up and be counted for a bigger and better investment in our public schools," said Senator Roberts.

Contact info
Senate Communications Division (405) 521-5605 1998