Oklahoma City University Meinders School of Business Dean Vince Orza presented an interesting idea during a meeting with business and industry professionals last week.

Orza said the main thing Enid could do to spur economic development is create great public schools.

But, how does a community create a school system that stands far and above the rest? Well, one way, Orza suggests, is to raise teacher pay.

Teacher pay does vary from one district to another, but a lot of teacher pay is set to a state formula. However, what could be done to possibly free up more money to be used for teacher pay?

Consolidation is one thing that could occur. If you look at the number of school districts in the immediate Enid area, there are a lot of dollars going to non-instructional items — transportation, breakfast and lunch programs, even administration.

In our state, we’ve talked about ways school districts could consolidate without closing any school doors — primarily in the areas mentioned above. Transportation will always be expensive, but we imagine there could be some efficiencies that might same some money. We believe money could be saved in consolidating food programs, and in administration services.

Another way Enid could increase teacher pay would be the same way some booster clubs are able to add to the pay of coaches or directors of other extra-curricular programs. With a committed group of businesses pitching in a certain dollar amount each year — to be divided evenly among all teachers or even to target specific types of teachers like science and math teachers — it’s possible to raise teacher pay even higher.

However, it takes more than increasing teacher pay to create great public schools. It takes quality facilities, quality administrators and updated technology. It also means having a good offering of extra-curricular activities, such as sports, music and the arts.

Education funding is definitely a challenge in public education. However, we believe Orza is right. People want to work and live in communities where they believe their children are going to get the best possible education. Having a great public education system is key to helping a community grow. It’s also a key to attracting young families. That’s why it’s important for the city, the county and the school systems to work together in planning upcoming bond issues or other improvement needed to reach our goals.

Orza was correct in saying that people understand the value of a good education for their children. Everything we do from here on should be a collaboration among all the entities that seek improvements to our infrastructure and our quality of life.

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