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Thursday, November 23rd, 2017Last Update: Sunday, November 5th, 2017 11:44:31 PM

Oklahoma Voters Want Tax Dollars to Follow the Child

By: Brandon Dutcher

Nearly two in three Oklahoma voters support using tax dollars to choose the public or private school which best meets their child’s needs.

That’s one of the findings in a survey commissioned by Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) just as the new school year was getting under way. The statewide survey of 1,016 likely Oklahoma voters was conducted by the firm Cor Strategies and has a margin of error of plus-minus 3.07 percent. The survey wording is presented below for each question .

“If you could select any type of school in order to obtain the best education for your child, what type of school would you select?”

While 47 percent say they would choose a traditional public school, the majority of Oklahomans would choose something else. Specifically, 30 percent would choose a private school, 12 percent would choose homeschooling, and 11 percent would choose a charter school. Whether in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, or the rest of the state, fewer than half of respondents say they would choose a traditional public school in order to obtain the best education for their child.

“According to data from the Oklahoma Cost Accounting System, public education spending in Oklahoma is approximately $9,700 per student per year. Would you say that taxpayers are getting a good return on their investment?”

Only 22 percent of respondents think taxpayers are getting a good return on their annual investment in public education, whereas 66 percent do not. This gloomy take on ROI cuts across party lines, being shared by Republicans (69 percent), Democrats (60 percent), and Independents (68 percent).

“A proposal has been made to move local school board and school bond elections to the general election date in November. Some people support the idea, believing it would increase voter turnout for these school elections and make it harder for education interest groups to influence the outcome. Other people oppose the idea, believing that the school elections would get lost on a crowded ballot and it would make them more partisan. Do you support or oppose moving school board and school bond elections to the general election date in November?”

Oklahomans support this idea by a margin of 53 percent to 35 percent. Democrats oppose the idea (45 percent to 42 percent), but Republicans (58 percent to 31 percent) and Independents (63 percent to 24 percent) are in support.

“Educational choice gives parents the right to use the tax dollars associated with their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school which best serves their needs. Generally speaking, would you say you support or oppose the concept of educational choice?”

Fully 65 percent of respondents support using tax dollars to send their child to a school of choice, whereas 28 percent oppose. (Interestingly, 44 percent strongly support the idea while 15 percent strongly oppose.) Republicans, Democrats, and Independents all support educational choice – with the Republican tally coming in at 76 percent to 17 percent.

“A proposal has been made to give parents the chance to customize their child’s education through Education Savings Accounts, or ESAs. With an ESA, the state puts the funds it would have spent on a child’s behalf into a bank account the parent controls. The parent can then use these funds to purchase the education that best meets their child’s needs from a wide variety of sources, including private schools, virtual schools, and institutions of higher education. Any funds not used in a school year could be carried over for future education, including college. Would you say that you support or oppose Oklahoma having a program like this one?”

Oklahomans support ESAs by a margin of 49 percent to 36 percent. Though Democrats (49 percent to 42 percent) oppose ESAs, Republicans (52 percent to 30 percent) and Independents (56 percent to 25 percent) overwhelmingly support ESAs.

A poll, of course, is only a snapshot of public opinion at the time the survey is taken. This newest snapshot does, however, add to a growing body of evidence which have shown strong support for ESAs and other forms of private-school choice.

About Brandon Dutcher

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

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