Brandon Dutcher | July 15, 2014
Survey says Oklahoma GOP voters want educational choices
A Braun Research survey released in January showed that Oklahomans — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike — favor educational choice.
Comes now a new survey, this one of Oklahoma GOP primary voters, showing that “Oklahoma Republican primary voters want bolder education reforms and a wider array of educational choices for students than the Republican-dominated legislature has delivered,” according to a press release from the Oklahoma Federation for Children, which commissioned the survey. The poll of 600 Republican primary voters was conducted June 8-10 by The Tarrance Group, a polling firm also used by Governor Mary Fallin and Congressman James Lankford.
“Republican primary voters support the education reforms already adopted by the Republican Legislature but they want them to go much further,” said Bob Sullivan, co-chairman of the Oklahoma Federation for Children. “The Republican base wants bolder reforms and more educational choices for Oklahoma’s families.”
The poll of Republican primary voters demonstrated strong support for the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Program for special needs students (76% favor, 15% oppose) and the Equal Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program (72% favor, 17% oppose). In fact, a majority of Republican primary voters would like to see this tax credit program expanded so that more students could receive scholarships to attend the private school of their parents’ choice.
While the Republican Legislature voted down legislation this year expanding charter schools throughout the state, Republican primary voters strongly support charter schools (68% favor, 19% oppose) and want them to be available in rural areas as well as urban areas (82% favor, 12% oppose).
The Republican primary voters also strongly approved of an innovative proposal to create Education Savings Accounts so parents could customize their child’s education (64% favor, 26% oppose). Unfortunately, the Republican Legislature defeated this legislation in a House committee this session.
The poll also found that support for bolder reforms increased among Republican primary voters in rural Oklahoma: Educational choice (83% favor, 14% oppose), charter schools (78% favor, 11% oppose), the Equal Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program (76% favor, 11 percent oppose), and the special needs program (78% favor, 11% oppose).
As emphatic as those numbers are, perhaps the strongest result came from the following question. “Now I'd like to read you two viewpoints on this issue,” the surveyor said. “Please tell me which one comes closest to your own.” [Read and rotate alternatives.]
Some people say that educational choice programs give parents the power to choose the school that works best for their child and puts pressure on all schools to do a better job educating children. Other people say that educational choice programs rob public schools of the funds they need to improve and allow a select few students to get a better education while other students are trapped in failing schools. Which viewpoint comes closest to your own?
Power to choose ………. 72%
Rob public schools ………. 18%
Neither ………. 3%
Unsure ………. 7%
I have discussed previously how Oklahoma’s educational-industrial complex holds powerful sway over lawmakers, even many Republican lawmakers. But as former OCPA trustee Russell Perry, co-chairman of the Oklahoma Federation for Children, correctly observes, survey results like these make it clear that “Republican voters want more high-quality educational choices for Oklahoma’s families. It is time for the Republican Legislature to catch up with its voters and deliver for the children of Oklahoma.”
Senior Vice President
Brandon Dutcher is OCPA’s senior vice president. Originally an OCPA board member, he joined the staff in 1995. Dutcher received his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Oklahoma. He received a master’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in public policy from Regent University. Dutcher is listed in the Heritage Foundation Guide to Public Policy Experts, and is editor of the book Oklahoma Policy Blueprint, which was praised by Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman as “thorough, well-informed, and highly sophisticated.” His award-winning articles have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, WORLD magazine, Forbes.com, Mises.org, The Oklahoman, the Tulsa World, and 200 newspapers throughout Oklahoma and the U.S. He and his wife, Susie, have six children and live in Edmond.