A recent SoonerPoll
finds that a majority of Oklahomans think teachers unions are getting in
the way of public school improvement.
When asked which view comes closest to their own, 55.4 percent of those
polled said ‘teachers unions are an obstacle that keeps schools from
getting better,’ compared to only 24.5 percent who said ‘teachers unions
help make schools better.’ A large number of respondents, 20.1 percent,
remained neutral or had no opinion on the issue.
A nationwide Time Magazine poll
conducted in August of this year asked the same question and found that
50 percent of those polled said ‘teachers unions are an obstacle that
keeps schools from getting better,’ while 35 percent said ‘teachers
unions help make schools better.’
In recent years the school choice movement, which argues that public
scholarships given to private schools will help improve the education
system by giving alternatives to children currently in public school,
has gained ground both nationally and here in Oklahoma, especially among
conservatives. Not surprisingly, Oklahoma, one of the most conservative
states in the nation, trends slightly ahead of the nation in ‘teachers
unions are an obstacle’ responses.
Further crosstab analysis finds that 64.8 percent of conservatives think
teachers unions are an obstacle compared to about half, 48.2 percent,
of liberals. Inversely, only 15.3 percent of conservatives think
teachers unions help make schools better compared to 33.3 percent of
Teachers unions have stood in staunch opposition to the school choice
movement, which they see as a threat because many of its policies may
lead to competition for schooling funding.
Despite union criticism, the school choice movement has enjoyed
remarkable gains in positive public opinion in the last few years, gains
that are likely to continue with the renewed focus of the mainstream
media on education reform.
“The teacher unions in Oklahoma may begin to question the wisdom of
putting State Question 744 on the ballot earlier this month, an
initiative with no accountability or reforms”, said Bill Shapard, CEO of
SoonerPoll.com. “Keep in mind a majority of Democrats and moderate
voters voted against it, which is a base the teacher unions cannot
alienate and still remain successful in the future.”
The release of the documentary film “Waiting for Superman”,
which chronicles the falling quality of education in public schools
while arguing for school choice as the solution, has created a renewed
interest in education reform.
SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, was commissioned for
this poll by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. SoonerPoll.com
conducted the scientific study using live interviews by telephone of 518
likely voters from Nov. 5 – 11. The study has a margin of error of ±
(Editor’s note: Last weekend, the “Superman” film was designated one
of the films on early ballots for voting members of the Academy Awards.
CapitolBeatOK editor Patrick B. McGuigan has said “Waiting for Superman” is the most significant American film of the 21st Century. “The Lottery,” another powerful film about the lives and educational challenges of inner city youth in America, also made the cut.)