Nearly nine of ten Oregonians would opt out of regular public schools

-Survey results find strong support for school choice among Democrats, Independents, Republicans-

PORTLAND, OR (January 5, 2009) – Nearly nine out of ten Oregon residents would send their children to private, charter, or virtual schools, or educate their children in a home school setting if they had the decision-making authority, according to the results of a public opinion survey released today by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, the Cascade Public Policy Institute, and several other state and national organizations. Eighty-seven percent of residents polled would opt for schools other than regular public schools, according to the survey.

“As we have found in several other states, parents in Oregon clearly want to have more options in the education of their children,” said Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Indianapolis-based Friedman Foundation, which undertook the study on behalf of the sponsoring organizations. “In short, they want school choice.”

“Cascade Policy Institute was founded in part on Milton Friedman’s idea that all families should be able to choose where their children go to school,” said Cascade founder Steve Buckstein. “Now we have even more evidence that most Oregonians agree.”

When asked “if it were your decision and you could select any type of school, what type of school would you select in order to obtain the best education for your child,” here’s how Oregonians responded:

44 percent selected private schools
24 percent selected charter schools
14 percent selected home schooling
13 percent selected regular public schools
5 percent selected virtual schools
The survey demonstrates a wide disconnect between schooling preferences and actual school enrollments. While forty-four percent of Oregon parents said they would like to send their child to a private school, only 7 percent of Oregon’s students attend private schools. Twenty-four percent of Oregon parents said they would like to send their child to a charter school, yet charter schools enroll only about 2 percent of the state’s students. While only thirteen percent of Oregon parents said they would choose a regular public school for their child, more than nine of ten -- 91 percent -- attend regular public schools. The implication of these results, is that Oregon, like many other states, does not have sufficient school choice systems in place to match parents’ schooling preferences.

Other results of the survey:

School choice is not a partisan issue among Oregon residents. The survey results indicate general agreement among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. There is potential in Oregon to put aside party differences and work together on systemic reforms, as there are shared common views on school choice policies. High levels of support exist for school vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, charter schools, and personal-use tax credits and deductions for education expenses.
Fifty-eight percent of the survey respondents rated Oregon public schools as poor or fair, while 41 percent rated the schools as good or excellent. More than one in three (36%) said that lack of accountability was the biggest challenge confronting the public schools, followed by poor student discipline and self-control (19%).

Fifty six percent say Oregon’s level of public school funding is “about right” or “too high,” though when asked how much they thought was spent on each student, more than two of three (67%) underestimated the per pupil expenditure. In 2006, the per pupil student funding in Oregon was $9,666; sixty-seven percent believed that amount to be $8,000 or less.

Oregonians show potentially high demand for new school models such as charter schools, virtual schools and vouchers. Survey results show 70 percent of voters are favorable to charter schools, 51 percent are favorable to virtual schools, and 63 percent are favorable to vouchers. Twenty-four percent strongly favor charter schools, 13 percent strongly favor virtual schools, and 19 percent strongly favor vouchers. These findings remain consistently high across family income groups.

The scientifically representative poll of 1,200 likely Oregon voters was conducted in September by Strategic Vision, an Atlanta-based public affairs agency whose polls have been used by Newsweek, Time Magazine, BBC, ABC News, and USA Today among others. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.