Saturday, August 17, 2019

OCPA column: Plugging their ears


Plugging their ears
by OCPA President Jonathan Small

If I were to tell you that people shout “Boomer” at OU football games and wear orange to OSU games, no one would bat an eye. Yet if I say, “Oklahomans strongly support school choice,” some policymakers will run screaming for the exits.

But polling has shown—over and over and over again—that my school-choice statement is as uncontroversial and undeniable as the existence of fan support for college football teams.

The latest proof comes from a poll conducted by Cor Strategies on behalf of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs from July 29 to Aug. 2 by Cor Strategies. It stated, “School choice gives parents the right to use the tax dollars designated for their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school which best meets their needs. Generally speaking, would you say you support or oppose the concept of school choice?”

A strong majority—58 percent—said they support school choice; just 30 percent voiced opposition. And strong supporters outnumbered strong opponents by two-to-one. Not surprisingly, support was strongest among Republicans and Independents, but there was also significant support among Democrats.

If this was just one poll, perhaps it could be dismissed. But this is the 12th Oklahoma survey in the last five years showing strong support for school choice. And the other polls were conducted by multiple pollsters for a range of clients. The consistency of Oklahomans’ responses cannot be dismissed.

While one other poll found opposition to school choice, the fact that only one poll out of 13 generated such results gives reason to doubt that one poll, not the other 12.

Also, the findings of those 12 polls are further bolstered by a poll conducted in January that found that, if money and transportation were not factors, 50 percent of Oklahomans would choose an education option for their children other than the traditional public school. That poll found 34 percent of respondents would choose a private school, 9 percent would choose a public charter school, and 7 percent would home-school their children. While it’s great that local traditional schools are doing well enough that 46 percent would still choose them, why should we ignore the wishes of a full half the population on other side?

Rather than plugging their ears and insisting that people aren’t doing the school-choice equivalent of yelling “Boomer” in the stands, policymakers need to respond to Oklahomans’ wishes and increase school-choice opportunity statewide.

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.

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