Economic Development -Cathy O’Connor

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564a1 Cathy O’Connor

“Economic development and the quality of public schools”
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 impact on the company’s decision. Quality public schools have an economic impact at every level, from the impact on individuals to the impact on the community as a whole.

The quality of a public school system has an impact 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 impact 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 holds 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’s career has been dedicated to improving outcomes in chronically failing schools, largely because of her own personal experience. She entered college thinking she was prepared, but quickly realized that her public education had been substandard and she was far less prepared than her college classmates. She had to work very hard to get caught up and eventually succeed in college. She is determined that the graduates of Oklahoma City Public Schools will have the preparation and the tools they need to succeed.

Aurora 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 impact on the economic development of our community at every level.

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