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“Our businesses won’t be able to grow,” Business leaders discuss state of Oklahoma schools

OKLAHOMA CITY – More than 500 business leaders gathered at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum on Wednesday for the 13th annual 'State of the Schools.'

Officials with the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce said business and education are linked and their members need to know what’s going on in the schools.

“Education is the lifeblood of all our businesses. If we don’t have quality of education, our businesses won’t be able to grow,” said Drew Dugan, vice president of Education at the Chamber.

Superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools Aurora Lora delivered an encouraging message to the business leaders, showing a video of Webster Middle School students dancing and singing “I Will Survive.”

“The odds may be stacked against us right now, but we’re up for this challenge and determined to succeed,” Lora said. “Even with the terrible budget crisis that we’re in, we managed to protect our fund balance and still scrape enough money at the end of this past year to give our teachers a raise.”

State Rep. Leslie Osborn talked about the potential of a state funded teacher pay raise next session.

“If we don’t see some form of a revenue measure to actually be the dedicated funding source, it’s going to be very difficult, and that will take House and Senate and executive branch leadership to say that we expect that,” Osborn said.

OSU President Burns Hargis talked about how the budget cuts affect higher education as well and how that, in turn, affects local business.

“Because, we’re giving all these incentives, great incentives to companies, but we’re not giving them the human capital they need to really be successful,” Hargis said.

Lora said they can’t do everything they do without the support of the business community and gave those in attendance several ideas of how they could help, ranging from donating money to volunteering time as a coach.