Education Funding A Must Says Tulsa Business Leaders

Thursday, March 22nd 2018, 10:46 pm
By: Amy Avery

We are 11 days away from the deadline that the Oklahoma Education Association gave lawmakers to come up with a funding plan before they walk out. 

Many businesses stood by the Step Up Oklahoma plan that would've given teachers a $5,000 dollar pay raise before it failed to pass. 

2/13/2018 Related Story: State House Comes Up Short For Step Up OK Bill, Teacher Raises

Now businesses say they’re nervous for the future of economic development in our state. 

Many Tulsa business leaders say they are having trouble recruiting families and even potential companies to move to the area because of the negative view that comes along with Oklahoma's Education system. 

Many believe it will get worse if lawmakers don't address the problem now.
"An investment in education is the best investment that you can make," said President of Mill Creek Lumber Jeff Dunn. 

Dunn said the underfunding of Oklahoma's Education System has been on many business leader's radar for several years and he hopes lawmakers address it soon so the problem doesn't get worse.

"Attracting a talented workforce will be much more problematic, attracting businesses to Oklahoma will be much more difficult," Dunn said. 

He said his business is already seeing these issues on the recruitment side.

"We had an employee that we recruited and we had two openings, one in Oklahoma and one in Kansas and he selected the job opening in Kansas in large part due to their preference for the high school," Dunn said. 

Dunn is one of many Tulsa business leaders who is seeing this issue first hand.

"We're seeing these needs from small business and medium-sized business to larger and very large international corporate entities. They're all seeing challenges attracting talent," said Tulsa Regional Chamber President Mike Neal. 

It's an obstacle that many businesses are tired of facing. 

"There’s a lot of wonderful things about this state that are quite attractive … but if we don’t make these investments in our future, in education, that won’t be the case for long," said Dunn. 

The investment in education ultimately fuels the future of Oklahoma. 

"Everyone here is unified behind the fact that we've got to make greater investment in education and education at all levels and that we've got to give teachers pay raises," said Neal. 

"This is not something that we [can] wait to solve in my opinion," said Dunn.  

Many businesses say that they hope it doesn't have to come to a walkout, but if it does, they understand and hope lawmakers come up with a solution soon.