Oklahoma Poll: School funding is important to state's voters
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Sunday, August 19, 2012
8/19/12 at 7:40 AM
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Almost two-thirds of Oklahomans say they are very concerned about the funding of their local public schools, and more than nine in 10 say they will take that funding into consideration when casting ballots in this fall's legislative races, according to the most recent Oklahoma Poll.
"I've been back in the state for 10 1/2 years, and it seems like every year there's less and less to spend for kids," said Ken Price of Sapulpa. "I just haven't heard a good explanation of why there is that disparity."
Just how much Oklahoma spends on common education is a matter of some disagreement, but it is generally acknowledged to be at the low end nationally. State appropriations for the current budget year were unchanged from the previous year and are $200 million less than in 2009.
Since 1999, state appropriations' share of total K-12 spending has declined from 60 percent to about half.
Legislative leaders blame the recession for reduced revenue and say reforms allow schools to operate more efficiently.
The Oklahoma Poll results indicate the public is not entirely buying it. Sixty-four percent said they were "very concerned" about the funding of their local schools, and another 24 percent were "somewhat concerned." Eleven percent were "not concerned at all."
Sixty-one percent said the Legislature is not doing enough to fund public schools in Oklahoma; 94 percent said a candidate's position on school funding would be "very important" or "somewhat important" in the November elections.
That might not matter much in practice. Fewer than half the 125 legislative seats up for election this year will be decided in the general election.
Anecdotally, though, legislative candidates have reported strong interest in school funding among constituents.
Linda Turner, a retired teacher from Mannford, said she believes at least some legislators are not interested in improving public schools.
"I wish I knew why they're not, but I definitely believe they are not," she said. "With this state, it's like one step forward and five steps backward. I don't understand why they think schools don't need money."
Turner said she doesn't think the situation has changed much in the 11 years since she left teaching.
"I feel like there are lots of people who are actually trying to get rid of public education," she said. "I fear there's such a huge swing to home-schooling and private schooling, and I feel like public school is so much at the core of what this country is about."
Some of those surveyed said they were unconcerned about school funding because they don't have children in school. Others said they believe schools are adequately funded now.
"They get fairly well funded," said Joyce O'Neal of Muldrow. "They need to be changed, the way they're set up. The local level is a lot better than the federal level. Federal government needs to keep its nose out of it."
Democrats were more likely than Republicans to say they were "very concerned" about education funding, and women were more concerned than men. The Tulsa metro area and the state's nonurban population were slightly more concerned than Oklahoma City respondents.
Respondents over 65 were somewhat less concerned than the rest of the population, and minorities were more concerned than whites. Those who considered themselves very conservative were somewhat less concerned about education funding than others, and were much less concerned than those who considered themselves very liberal.
About the poll
The poll of 495 likely voters was conducted by soonerpoll.com, using a Random Digit Dialing technique that included both cellphone and landline telephone numbers. Likely voters are those who have established a frequent pattern of voting.
Interviewers collected the data July 26-Aug. 14 by phone. Results were weighted by age, Metropolitan Statistical Area, political party and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both).
The margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. This poll conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls. A complete description of the methodology can be found at tulsaworld.com/SoonerPoll.
Public school funding
Since 2009, state money for
public schools in Oklahoma
has been cut by more than
$200 million. As a result,
school districts across the
state have had to cut teachers,
support staff and
programs. How concerned
are you about the cuts to your
local public schools?
Somewhat concerned ..24%
Not concerned at all ......11%
Don't know/refused ........1%
Do you think the state
Legislature is doing enough
to fund public schools in
(Numbers have been rounded.)
Original Print Headline: Poll: School funding is important to voters
Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365