OKLAHOMA CITY – In a new report ranking states as "the best" in the nation, Oklahoma ranks among those at the bottom of the list.
The rankings from U.S. News and World Report says Oklahoma ranks 44 out of 50 in the United States, overall.
The rankings are broken down into seven main categories and use publicly-available data from federal agencies such as the U.S. Census Bureau, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Transportation to make a final determination.
According to the report, Oklahoma ranks 48 out of 50 in healthcare, 42 in infrastructure like roads and bridges and 40 in crime and corrections; opportunity (36), economy (34) and government (31) follow.
The area the state did rank highest in was education, coming in at 30.
“This is definitely something that we are very proud to see movement up and that it is education, that is ranked the highest in the state,” said Oklahoma State Department of Education Superintendent Joy Hofmeister.
“As you look at the other core services and they are struggling to rise it is, I think, ever more important that we are certain that we give a good start in an early education.”
According to the report, the two-highest marks in Pre-K through 12 education came in the state’s Pre-K quality and Preschool Enrollment (6th and 8th in the country, respectively). Areas Hofmeister says should be built upon.
But she says there are clearly challenges ahead with rising class sizes, teacher shortages and budget revenue failures.
"I would say that that is not sustainable. And we are going to lose ground if we are not able to adequately fund our classrooms.”
“If we don`t have a good education system, we`re not going to have good workers,” explained State Chamber of Oklahoma President and CEO Fred Morgan. “And we’re going to have trouble recruiting and we’re also going to have trouble meeting the labor pool that we need to thrive as a business.”
Morgan says reports like these aren't something to brush under the rug, but use it as an opportunity for improvement.
“It has a real impact. It’s not just a ranking. So every one of these categories would affect my ability – or anybody’s ability – to not only run and operate a business, but also to be an employee of that business.”
��What do you think the problem is?” I asked him.
“I think the problem is that we need a long-term vision to address some of these; and some of these we are starting to address.”
Which is precisely what those behind the data say these rankings are supposed to do: identify areas for improvement and look for solutions.
“So what we hope to do with 'Best States' is to give state governments and also citizens an insight to which of those experiments (policies) are working and which of them aren’t,” said Lindsey Cook, one of the data editors with U.S. News & World Report that worked on the “Best States” rankings.
“We hope it sparks a lot of conversations about what`s working and what`s not, and really causes citizens to demand improvements."