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Saturday, July 20th, 2019Last Update: Tuesday, May 7th, 2019 11:03:32 AM

What Type of School Would Oklahomans Select?

By: Brandon Dutcher

Leaders in the public-education community often point out (correctly) that the vast majority of Oklahoma students attend traditional public schools. Edmond school board member Meredith Exline, for example, put it this way: “Oklahomans have already made their ‘choice’ when it comes to education. More than 90 percent of parents have chosen public schools and are demanding they be properly funded.”

Of course, that’s like saying Americans in the 1970s decisively “chose” Ma Bell for telephone services, or like believing that subjects of the British Empire loved East India Company tea. But what do Oklahoma parents really want? What type of school would they select for their own children if financial costs and transportation were of no concern? According to a new statewide survey of 502 likely Oklahoma voters commissioned by Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) and conducted by Cor Strategies (margin of error: plus/minus 4.37 percent), roughly half of Oklahomans would choose a traditional public school. And roughly half would make other choices.

Question 1

“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?”

Traditional public school 57%

Charter schoo1 9%

Private or parochial school 24%

Home school 10%

Question 2

“If you could select any type of school for your child, and financial costs and transportation were of no concern, what type of school would you select?”

Traditional public school 49%

Charter school 8%

Private or parochial school 36%

Home school 8%

The demand for options is strong. Leaders in the public education community know this better than anyone. These educators fear what will happen if parents are empowered to vote with their feet – and they use surprisingly apocalyptic language to describe it. Former Tulsa superintendent Keith Ballard, for example, says education savings accounts (ESAs) would have “a disastrous effect on public schools.” Former Norman superintendent Joe Siano says ESA legislation “will harm our public schools beyond the point of no return.” Former Sand Springs administrator Rob Miller says ESAs would deal a “mortal blow” to public education and do “irreparable harm to our nation.”

Not exactly a vote of confidence in their own product. As Isabel Paterson asked 75 years ago, “Do you think nobody would willingly entrust his children to you to pay you for teaching them? Why do you have to extort your fees and collect your pupils by compulsion?”

It’s not difficult to get 90 percent of parents to “choose” public schools when you’ve got the tax collector on your side. But as these survey results make clear, parents want more than one 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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