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Poll Says

Oklahoma Voters Want Bolder Education Reforms, More Choices

A poll released today shows that voters in the state’s Republican primary elections want bolder education reforms and a wider array of education choices for students than the Legislature has delivered.

The poll was conducted by The Tarrance Group for the Oklahoma Federation for Children.

“Republican primary voters support the education reforms already adopted by the Republican-controlled Legislature, but they want them to go much further,” said Bob Sullivan of Tulsa, co-chairman of the group that commissioned the poll.

The poll of Republican primary voters demonstrated strong support for the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Program for special needs students (76 percent favor, 15 percent oppose) and the Equal Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program (72 percent favor, 17 percent oppose).

In fact, the poll indicates the 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, according to Russell M. Perry of Oklahoma, the other co-chairman of the Oklahoma Federation for Children.

“While the Republican-controlled Legislature voted down legislation this year expanding charter schools throughout the state,” Mr. Perry said, “Republican primary voters strongly support charter schools (68 percent favor, 19 percent oppose), and want them to be available in rural areas, as well as urban areas (82 percent favor, 12 percent oppose).”

The voters polled also strongly approved of a proposal to create Education Savings Accounts, so parents could customize their child’s education (64 percent favor, 26 percent oppose). “Unfortunately, this session, the Legislature defeated this legislation in a State House of Representatives committee,” Mr. Sullivan commented.

The poll also found that support for bolder reforms increased among Republican primary voters in rural Oklahoma: for educational choice (83 percent favor, 14 percent oppose), for charter schools (78 percent favor, 11 percent oppose), for the Equal Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit Program (76 percent favor, 11 percent oppose), and for the special needs program (78 percent favor, 11 percent oppose). “It is clear Republican voters want more high-quality educational choices for Oklahoma’s families,” said Mr. Perry. “It is time for the Republican-controlled Legislature to catch up with its voters and deliver for the children of Oklahoma.”

“Education is often a difficult issue for Republican candidates,” Brian Nienaber, vice president of The Tarrance Group, said, reflecting on the poll results. “This data offers valuable guidance that embracing educational choices and embracing flexibility for parents on how to fund the education of their children are broadly popular concepts among Republican voters.”

The poll of 600 Republican primary voters was conducted from June 8-June 10.

Most recently, The Tarrance Group has done polling for Gov. Mary Fallin and U.S. Rep. James Lankford (Rep., Okla.).

The Oklahoma Federation for Children is a state-based project of the American Federation for Children, which advocates for educational choice.