An honest reading of the public-opinion survey data over the past couple of years shows that Oklahomans favor educational choice. But what if a pollster explored the question again now, in this climate dominated by daily news stories in which the public education community (despite $8.7 billion in annual revenue) tells us the sky is falling?
Well, SoonerPoll did just that. And though Oklahomans are concerned about school finance (the same SoonerPoll survey shows the Boren tax increase has strong support), they nonetheless favor educational choice:
“Educational choice gives parents the right to use tax dollars associated with their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school which best serves their needs. Some people favor educational choice because they believe that parents, not government officials, have the moral right to determine a child’s path. Other people oppose educational choice because they believe it drains money from public schools and allows only a select few students to choose a different school. Which viewpoint comes closest to your own?”
FAVOR – parents have the moral right to choose – 51.5%
OPPOSE – it drains money from public schools – 37.3%
UNDECIDED – 11.2%
Looking at the results by political party, 64.1 percent of Republicans favor educational choice while 24.2 percent oppose. Among Democrats, 39.4 percent favor educational choice while 50.3 percent oppose.
Looking at the results in the two major urban centers, in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area 58.7 percent favor educational choice while 31.4 percent oppose. In the Tulsa metropolitan area 55.9 percent favor educational choice while 34.4 percent oppose.
In short, says SoonerPoll CEO Bill Shapard: “Time and time again, we’ve asked Oklahoma voters in a variety of ways about the concept of school choice, and a majority continue to support it.”
Dutcher is Senior Vice President at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) http://www.ocpathink.org/, which was founded in 1993 as a public policy research organization focused primarily on state-level issues. His award-winning articles have appeared in 200 newspapers throughout Oklahoma and the U.S. He can be contacted at: Brandon@ocpathink.org, at: twitter.com/brandondutcher or facebook.com/brandondutcher