Pollster: ‘The Public Is Clearly Ready to Move on School Choice Initiatives’

December 1, 2015

Brandon Dutcher

Oklahoma voters and parents “emphatically support school choice expansion.” That’s the assessment of respected public-opinion researcher Pat McFerron, president of Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates, after reviewing the results of the firm’s latest survey.

“Oklahoma voters strongly embrace school choice and giving parents the right to use tax dollars to send their child to their choice of public or private schools,” McFerron writes.

Support for school choice is overwhelming—fully 70% of all voters, including 79% of Republicans and 60% of registered Democrats—support school choice for public or private schools.

Not only do 70% support school choice, but 47% say they strongly support it—54% among those Republicans with a history of voting in primaries. Women with a child in the home are the most committed to school choice with 78% supporting parental ability to direct their tax dollars to a public or private school of their choosing, and 60% say they strongly favor this ability. …

School choice is not just a secondary issue. Two-thirds of voters say it is either “extremely” or “very” important to them. The key, however, is that 34% say it is an extremely important issue.

One particular school-choice proposal, Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), will doubtless be considered in the 2016 legislative session. The survey found an 18-point advantage for ESA supporters (55% favor vs. 37% oppose). Other school-choice policies—individual tax credits, for example—were not examined in this particular survey but also merit consideration by policymakers.

“Oklahomans, particularly those with children in school, are clamoring for greater school choice,” The Oklahoman's editorial board notes (“Oklahoma lawmakers should move ahead with ESA measure”). “It's always been clear that there are no legitimate policy reasons to oppose ESAs in Oklahoma. Now it's evident there are no legitimate political reasons for lawmakers to withhold their support either.”