BY DAVID PERRYMAN
The song Tomorrow from the 1977 Broadway musical, Annie, gives us a glimpse of the optimism of the downtrodden orphaned child who sings that “the sun’ll come out tomorrow” and that “thinkin’ about tomorrow clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow.”
Unfortunately for Annie and for many Oklahomans, tomorrow is always a day away. Annie pins her hopes and dreams on a better tomorrow. However, our state government refuses to nurture an economy where opportunities will provide the means for us to lift ourselves out of our current situation and into a better one.
Over the past several years, according to Oklahoma’s Secretary of State Chris Benge, undeniable evidence has accumulated showing that the No. 1 economic factor that businesses seek when locating or expanding is an educated and trained workforce supported by strong public education.
Based on information provided in April 2014, by the non-profit Oklahoma Policy Institute, there is a strong correlation between education and wages and, with few exceptions, the states where workers earn the highest wages are the states with the most college graduates.
Apparently, this analysis has merit since Oklahoma ranks 42nd in percentage of the population having at least a bachelor’s degree and has the 39th lowest median wage.
While state legislative leaders continue to hand out tax credits “like candy” and consequently leave a huge hole in the general fund, A 2009 study by Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier found that every dollar spent on education creates almost twice as many jobs as a would be anticipated from a dollar diverted as tax credit and the jobs created by educational spending are jobs with higher pay.
An educated Oklahoma workforce not only brings new employers to our state, it provides solid economic growth without growing government … and that’s a good thing.
Plain and simple: An employer who suppresses wages and does not provide health benefits grows government when the employment must be subsidized through welfare and other social programs. That government growth is a bad thing.
According to 2011 the median annual income of a high school graduate is nearly 41% higher than a high school drop out. A two-year college degree adds another 40% in annual income and the median income of a bachelor’s degree holder is 2½ times higher than what a drop out will earn with a masters degree providing three times the dropout’s income.
Higher paying jobs not only decrease the need for government subsidies, but also promote healthier living and allow Oklahoma’s resources to be redirected to roads, bridges and other core services.
Instead, Oklahoma pulls money away from education at a rate greater than any other state, thus hampering economic recovery and jeopardizing the potential that Oklahoma’s workforce will ever be skilled to the degree needed to sustain higher wages.
Planning for tomorrow requires investment. In this case, investment in education.
There will be a tomorrow and it will be here sooner than we think. Unfortunately, if we do not plan for tomorrow it will be just like today. A day late and a dollar short. We can’t stick our heads into the sand.
The lyrics of another 1977 song, this one by Fleetwood Mac, reminds us that we can’t stop “thinkin’ about tomorrow.”
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives