By October 17, 2016 Uncategorized 12 Comments

“Electricity can be dangerous. My nephew tried to stick a penny into a plug. Whoever said a penny doesn’t go far didn’t see him shoot across that floor. I told him he was grounded.” ~ Tim Allen

Yes, the good old penny, the most ubiquitous man-made object in America that does not interact with any mechanism or machine.

Try it for yourself.

The next time you drive the Turner Turnpike from Tulsa to Oklahoma City, drop 390 pennies in the toll booth and see what that gets you. All you’re going to do is make the attendant very angry!

Likewise with trying to buy a coke from the Wal-Mart vending machine or using a handful of pennies to pay for a car wash.

Let’s face it – the penny is virtually useless.  Most of us have a small stash of pennies somewhere in our home or car tucked away in an ashtray, a junk drawer or perhaps in a jar. I’m guessing 99% of us would not stop to pick up a penny off the ground. Admittedly, that’s probably true for nickels and dimes, too.

Well, here are a few things you may not have known about the penny.

Pennies were the very first coins minted in the United States.

The average penny is in circulation for 25 years.

To be accurate, there’s actually no official “penny” in United States circulation. That term actually derives from the British, who make a coin called the “penny.” However, the official name of the U.S. coin that we Americans call the penny is actually just the one cent coin.

So, how much do you think it costs to make a one cent coin?

The answer is MORE than a penny. According to the United States Mint, it now costs 1.7 cents to make a one cent coin.

You read that correctly. The penny costs more to make than it is worth.

Despite this fact, the US Mint produces about 13 billion pennies a year. That means we are spending over 22.1 billion dollars a year to produce a product that is worth nine billion dollars less than what we produce it for.

Sounds a little penny wise and pound foolish, doesn’t it?

How about this fact. Were you aware that a “copper” penny is actually 97.5% zinc and only 2.5% copper? At .0625 grams of copper per penny, it would take $72.64 worth of pennies to yield just one pound of copper metal. Don’t you love math?

I suppose this is why thieves are stealing air conditioner coils rather than saving up their pennies.

Okay, if pennies are so useless, why does the government keep them around?

The answer is simple: sales tax.

Sales tax raises the price of an item to an uneven amount, requiring pennies to be given in change. Retailers need pennies to return to customers, banks need pennies to give to the retailers, and the Fed needs pennies to give to the bank.

All so you can drop one on the sidewalk on your way out.

Yet, just like the pennies in the jar at home, these one cent coins can also add up quite quickly.

That brings me to the real point of this post.

In three weeks, Oklahoma voters will go to the polls to decide the fate of an estimated 42.7 billion pennies a year in Oklahoma ($427M).

By raising our state portion of sales tax by one penny, from 4.5 to 5.5 percent, passage of State Question 779 will give voters the opportunity to do what our state legislature has failed to do for more than eight years – give our woefully underpaid teachers a well-deserved pay raise.

I am not going to get into the weeds in this post as to how this question would be implemented if approved. If you want to read the details, two great sources are the websites of the Oklahoma Policy Institute (OPI) or the Oklahoma State School Boards Association (OSSBA). You can also check out Rick Cobb’s excellent post on the same subject HERE.

State Question 779: Sales Tax for Education

The bottom line is that years of stagnant teacher pay in Oklahoma has created a crisis in recruitment and retention. According to a 2015 study by University of Tulsa economist Matthew Hendricks, Oklahoma schools are seeing 17 percent of first-year teachers leave the profession each year. Average teacher experience is falling, with more than one in five teachers having three years of experience or less.

In a recent blog post, the OPI presented two charts which explain why we must pass this $5,000 pay raise for all teachers.

When adjusted for inflation, average teacher salaries have decreased almost $8,000 since their high point in the 2009-2010 school year.

Even when accounting for our state’s relatively low cost of living, teachers would need a $6,100 raise according to a recent NEA research study.

This will definitely not be a penny wasted.

So, what is a penny worth?

An extra penny in sales taxes will allow our schools to be competitive with surrounding states for our best and brightest teachers.

An extra penny will keep more quality teachers in the classroom and hopefully reduce the number of emergency certified teachers in our schools.

Better, well-trained teachers will result in greater student engagement and higher achievement.

Better educated students will be more able to fill the high skill jobs of the next few decades, in technology, medicine, engineering, and research.

A larger number of Oklahoma citizens in high paying jobs adds to our tax base and stimulates additional economic growth.

Additional economic growth enables our state to enhance our infrastructure, maintain our roads and bridges, adequately fund public education and other social agencies, and meet the varied needs of all our citizens.

Having worked with teachers and students for 24 years, I can write this sentence with certainly.

The children of Oklahoma and the teachers we entrust them to are worth every penny we can provide for them.

I fear if we don’t do something soon, our schools won’t have two pennies left to rub together.

And that’s my two-cent’s worth.

This Post Has Been Viewed 1,077 Times

Share this: