Brandon Dutcher | April 22, 2015
Oklahoma’s Demographic Trends Point Up the Need for Education-Delivery Modernization
“How hard should Oklahoma hold on to the K-12 status-quo, and where is it taking the state?” Dr. Matthew Ladner asks in this month’s issue of Perspective.
The last 15 years of K-12 outputs amount to “a lost decade plus halfway through a second,” he says, and “things don’t look to get any easier over the next decade and a half. Oklahoma’s student population looks to become increasingly diverse during this period. More worrying still, the state’s total population will age profoundly.”
Oklahomans should feel the gravest possible level of concern. It is an unambiguous blessing to have multiple generations of Americans alive at the same time, but the American social welfare state is not prepared for it at either the state or federal level.
The most immediate need — and the one thing that policymakers could do now — is to improve the quality of the K-12 system. Another 15 years like 1998-2013 will prove incredibly costly for Oklahoma’s future. Oklahoma’s growing health care spending threatens to strain all other types of spending as the population ages.
Spending on K-12 education is guaranteed by the Oklahoma Constitution and is supported by the public. It faces a terrific strain in what looks to be an era where health needs increase and revenue growth slows, but it is here to stay. The organization of the delivery system, however, badly needs to change to meet the needs of the 21st century. Changing age demography will require a rethinking of the entire social welfare state, but the most urgent need will be to improve K-12 outcomes. The challenge for Oklahoma policymakers lies in driving an increase in both the academic outcomes and the cost-effectiveness of K-12 delivery.
I urge you to read more about modernizing education.
Senior Vice President
Brandon Dutcher is OCPA’s senior vice president. Originally an OCPA board member, he joined the staff in 1995. Dutcher received his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Oklahoma. He received a master’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in public policy from Regent University. Dutcher is listed in the Heritage Foundation Guide to Public Policy Experts, and is editor of the book Oklahoma Policy Blueprint, which was praised by Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman as “thorough, well-informed, and highly sophisticated.” His award-winning articles have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, WORLD magazine, Forbes.com, Mises.org, The Oklahoman, the Tulsa World, and 200 newspapers throughout Oklahoma and the U.S. He and his wife, Susie, have six children and live in Edmond.