Report finds investments in education like Amendment 66 best way to boost workforce and state’s economy

August 23, 2013
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Investing in education – the goal of Amendment 66 on November’s ballot – is the surest way to boost Colorado’s economy, according to the findings of a nationwide report released today.

The report, A Well-Educated Workforce is Key to State Prosperity, shows a strong link between states’ educational attainment and workers’ pay and productivity. The report measures those factors in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Link to report: http://www.epi.org/publication/states-education-productivity-growth-foundations/

The report was written by Noah Berger, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, and Peter Fisher, research director at the Iowa Policy Project. Both groups are members of the Economic Analysis and Research Network, as are the Bell Policy Center, the Colorado Fiscal Institute and the Colorado Center on Law and Policy.

“This report is very timely and completely supports what Colorado is trying to do with Amendment 66,” said Michelle Webster, manager of budget and policy analysis with the Colorado Center on Law and Policy. “It shows that fostering and creating an educated workforce is the best magnet for economic development. Investing in education – such as preschool and kindergarten – pays dividends for years to come.”

 The report notes that many states, in the wake of the Great Recession, have taken the opposite approach, promoting tax cuts and attempting to lure companies from other states. That approach drains resources from the most important, proven path to increasing productivity: investments in education,” according to the report.

 The report makes key points relevant to Coloradans:

  • Better education leads to higher wages and a stronger economy: The best way to measure whether an economy is working is to look at whether incomes are increasing. Increases in education lead to better productivity that is associated with higher wages. 

“This report connects the dots between quality education and higher wages and shows that a well-paid, educated workforce produces an economy that will be attractive to business and promote prosperity. It dispels the notion that tax rates determine economic growth. The report makes it clear that what really matters is investing in schools.” said Carol Hedges, executive director of the Colorado Fiscal Institute.

  •  Investing in education is more important than ever: There is a stronger connection than ever between economic growth and an educated workforce. It’s not like previous generations, when a high school education was enough to secure a good job and middle-class lifestyle.

“Today the level of education in a state is more directly connected to wages that any time in the last 30 years. It has become clear that the states with the most well-educated populations are seeing the highest wages,” said Rich Jones, director of policy and research at the Bell Policy Center.

Jones cited these figures from the report: In 1979, 23.2 percent of Coloradans had a bachelor’s degree or higher – tops in the nation. That year we were also among the top 10 states in median hourly wages. In 2012, we were fifth-highest in educational attainment, with 39.2 percent of our population holding a bachelor’s degree or higher. Again, we were in the top 10 in median hourly wages.

 The Colorado experience clearly shows that having a highly educated workforce translates into higher median wages for our workers. It also shows that for Colorado to remain among the best-educated workforces with the highest median wages, we need to ensure that more Coloradans attend and complete their post-secondary education.

  •  Education is an investment in Colorado’s future: Investing in education is a key component in creating a future that is economically sustainable.

“Education is a vital investment in building a strong economy and healthy communities. We know that higher education is linked to improved health outcomes and a lower likelihood of living in poverty, which benefits the entire community and future generations,” said Webster of the Colorado Center on Law and Policy.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, at last week’s kickoff of Colorado Commits to Kids, the campaign behind Amendment 66, said much the same thing. He said business leaders he encounters ask many questions about Colorado, but they always return to the same bottom line: the quality of schools and the skills and knowledge of the workforce.

Amendment 66 will carefully invest $950 million in all of our schools, from the Western Slope to the mountains to the plains, and it will also allow us to launch innovative and overdue reforms that the legislature has enacted but not been able to pay for. This money will help in objective, measurable ways, such as getting the best teachers into the classroom, improving literacy in early grades, lowering class sizes and assessing school accountability.

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