Majority of Oregonians Want School Choice, Think Money Should Follow the Child

By Kathryn Hickok and Steve Buckstein

Nearly nine out of ten Oregonians would opt out of regular public schools if they could, according to a scientifically representative public opinion poll released this month. Yet, ninety-one percent of Oregon children currently attend a regular public school, usually the one assigned to them based on their home address.

This startling poll of 1,200 likely Oregon voters was conducted on behalf of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and cosponsored by Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

Among the key findings of this poll is that school choice is not a partisan issue among Oregonians. Alternatives to conventional public school education are overwhelmingly supported across every political, ethnic and religious affiliation and regardless of age, income and geographic location. Similar percentages of Democrats, Republicans and Independents support 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. Voters say accountability, poor student discipline and school safety issues are major challenges for Oregon’s public school system.

When asked what type of school they would select in order to obtain the best education for their child, 44 percent of respondents chose private schools. Twenty-four percent selected charter schools, 14 percent would homeschool, 13 percent chose regular public schools, and 5 percent preferred virtual schools.

The surprising results of this poll reveal many important things about what Oregonians really think about their children’s education. Oregon voters indicate a wide disconnect between their schooling preferences and actual school enrollments. While 44 percent of Oregon parents said they would like to send their child to a private school, only about 7 percent of Oregon’s K-12 students actually attend private schools.

Why the stark contrast? Most people cannot afford to pay taxes for public schools and tuition for private schools at the same time. Even though more than 5 billion tax dollars a year go toward educating Oregon’s school-aged children, virtually all of that money goes to public school districts, not to parents or students. If you send your children to public schools, their education is “free.” If you want to make a different choice, you forfeit what is currently a $10,000-per-child-per-year entitlement to a public education. Taxpayer funding stays in the public system, even if your child is being educated somewhere else.

If 87 percent of Oregonians want to send their children to other than a regular public school, yet only nine percent actually do so, don’t the rest deserve an opportunity to make the choices they think are best for their children? As the 2009 legislative session begins, at least one bill will move in that direction. Known as the Oregon Education Tax Credit Bill (ORED), it would provide personal income tax credits of $1,000 per child for educational expenses, $1,000 tax credits for taxpayers to support tuition scholarship organizations that help low-income students or students with disabilities, and up to $8,000 credits for Oregon businesses to support such organizations.

In a nutshell, the ORED Tax Credit Bill would”¦

“¢ Ensure that our most vulnerable children in Oregon get the high-quality education they deserve;
“¢ Generate millions of new dollars for the education of Oregon’s children voluntarily contributed by Oregon corporations;
“¢ Help every family in Oregon that is spending money to educate their children.

Are you:

“¢ Paying for a tutor for your student?
“¢ Searching for a scholarship so your child can attend a different school?
“¢ Struggling to pay private school tuition?
“¢ Homeschooling your child?
“¢ Interested in directing $1,000 of your state income taxes to helping a low-income or disabled student?

If you answered yes to any one of these questions, then you would benefit from the ORED Tax Credit.

At least six states currently offer some form of tax credit for K-12 education. Oregon could become the seventh.

Oregonians clearly want to be able to choose where their children go to school. It is time our lawmakers gave them that choice by letting at least some tax money follow the child, so that parents can make the educational choices that they believe are in the best interests of their children.

Kathryn Hickok is Publications Director, Development Coordinator, and Director of the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland at Cascade Policy Institute. Steve Buckstein is Senior Policy Analyst and founder at Cascade Policy Institute.

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Posted by at 06:00 | Posted in Measure 37 | 24 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Jerry

    If we can legally kill our children in Oregon (abortion – assisted suicide) then it only stands to reason that we ought to be able to decide where they go to school.

    Choice is good, no?

  • Rupert in Springfield

    Well, I said it the last time around, vouchers and all this sort of thing wont do a lot of good without some sort of sacrifice, as in financial, from the parents.

    Home scholars do better than public schools well not because their parents are brilliant educators, they may be. They do well because of parental involvement, its a tremendous sacrifice of time to home school. Private and parochial schools do better in part because of smaller class size, better teachers and less fad prone education styles. However a huge chunk of the success is because the parents are forking over a lot of money and tend hold Jenny’s nose to the grindstone due to that.

    You take the parental sacrifice out of the equation and the children might do better. Keep it in and that success is far more probable.

    PS – Just to be real crystal clear. The logical leap that because I think parental sacrifice is important, that means I hate public schools should not be inferred.

    • Steve Buckstein

      We agree, Rupert. Cascade has run a private scholarship program for low-income families in the Portland area since 1999. Every family must contribute at least a portion of the tuition, and many make real sacrifices to do so.

      • Rupert in Springfield

        That’s really great that you do that Steve.

        I don’t know why this is such a difficult issue. Most seem to grasp the sweat equity concept in Habitat for Humanity. Works well there. People do ten to do better when they have an investment in time or money in something. This is why one tends to notice people doing maintenance on cars they own more often than cars they rent.

        PS – Just to be real crystal clear. The logical leap that because I think sweat equity in the Habitat program is important, that means I hate housing should not be inferred.

        PPS – Just to be real crystal clear. The logical leap that because I think car maintenance is important, that means I hate transportation should not be inferred.

  • Anonymous

    “PS – Just to be real crystal clear. The logical leap that because I think parental sacrifice is important, that means I hate public schools should not be inferred.”

    Good luck with that – I guess hope springs eternal…

    • Rupert in Springfield

      Well, that hope does seem to spring forth with more frequency than a sensical discussion would emerge from someone who has no other argument than “you hate public schools”. If nothing else your comment has added to the discussion in illustrating that. Thank you.

  • dean

    I was thinking about this earlier today. No argument from me that parental involvement is important. I don’t think many teachers would argue that either. But what happens when you have either dysfunctional parents who won’t get involved and might be in a drug or alcohol stupor if they did show up, or those working 2 low paid jobs to make ends meet, so lack the time? What does the question at hand, school choice have to do with this core issue?

    • Rupert in Springfield

      >What does the question at hand, school choice have to do with this core issue?

      Why do you seem to feel school choice has nothing to do with that issue? Or are you saying that any proposal regarding schooling has to solve all issues otherwise it is not worth considering?

      • dean

        I don’t see how granting dysfunctional or disengaged parents a “choice” of where to send their kids to school, a choice they already have by the way, would make them more engaged in their kid’s education. What is the evidence that it would be otherwise?

        • Rupert in Springfield

          >I don’t see how granting dysfunctional or disengaged parents a “choice” of where to send their kids to school……would make them more engaged in their kid’s education.

          I don’t see how it would either. I dont know what your point is in bringing it up.

          Since I have argued directly contrary to that position I have no idea upon what basis you feel a need to discuss it in a reply to me.

          Would you care to also discuss the evidence that corn miraculously turns into watermelon?

          You seem insistent on non germane topics so I thought I would give it a whirl.

          I simply refuse to constantly have to restate what I said because you insist on arguing about things no one has ever claimed i.e. Dean Weasel number one, feigned lack of reading comprehension.

          Would you care to also debate whether all airplanes are transparent, or if rugs all smell like cauliflower while we are at it?

          • dean

            I actually had a rug that smelled like brocolli with lemon squeezed on it, but no….no need to discuss.

          • Rupert in Springfield

            Ok – So got it now? Vouchers are not a panacea for parental involvement. Financial involvement, however, often is.

    • Jerry

      Who cares what school choice has to do with your inane example?? We are talking about choice for people who care. If some don’t care, that’s their business.
      Choice is good.
      It is what dems have been saying for decades.
      We agree with them.

    • dian

      Even with public schoolo, we have disfunctional or non caring ore just plain old absent parents. Nobody said all children must be home schooled. The poor children with that type of parent will continue to do the same in public school as they always have.

      Those parents made that CHOICE, as Jerry said choice is good although sometimes bad, but you can’t control that.

      Dumb statement to even bring up, what about them?

    • Anonymous

      “No argument from me that parental involvement is important. I don’t think many teachers would argue that either.”

      Unless it reduced their incomes by $5.00/year, of course.

      I hate public schools, BTW.

  • eagle eye

    Is this the recycled poll from a few days back? OK, if you folks want to believe that Oregonians favor school choice, put vouchers back on the ballot.

    Or, do an end run around the initiative process. Oh, that’s called the legislature. Think they’re going to siphon money out of the public schools to pay for this tax credit idea? I kind of like the idea myself, but I wouldn’t hold my breath on it happening.

    • Anonymous

      They should, but unfortunately too many people still foolishly believe the govt is the answer to everything, including their children’s education.

    • Rupert in Springfield

      Frankly I don’t see what the big deal is. If such a huge majority actually doesn’t want the vouchers, then it can hardly be argued that they represent much of a threat to school funding. After all, if they gave a voucher program and nobody came, nothing would happen.

      Why not let people try them out and see what happens?

      We could even handicap it in the way most vouchers programs I have heard of tend to be enacted:

      If the cost to educate a pupil is X dollars. The vouchers could be given in the amount of 70% of X. That way for every child that uses a voucher for private school, the public schools get a net benefit of 30% of X per child that leaves!

      Sounds like a win for all! Increased funding on a per pupil basis for public schools, increased choice for parents that want to do the voucher thing.

      • eagle eye

        Get it on the ballot and see if it flies!

        • Rupert in Springfield

          Or, enact it in the legislature seems and see if scores improve!

          Wont cost a dime since if you are correct no one would sign up!

          • eagle eye

            Take it up with your legislators in Springfield!

          • Rupert in Springfield


            I’m talking about state wide, you know that.

            At any rate, your smugness is actually quite justified. We all know how much money and effort the OEA dumped into defeating vouchers the last couple of times and we all know how effective it was.

            Nothing of is getting through Salem now without the OEA fat cats first signing off on it.

            Congratulations, for the foreseeable future your side has pretty much won. We will do more of the same, probably with more money flinging. God forbid we should try something new.

            So, since priorities seem to be other than finding solutions, one would hope that in addition to the smug attitude, you would also not be too annoyed if we hold the OEA to task for the results. After all to the victor goes that particular aspect of the spoils and even the OEA with all its money and power is not above accountability.

          • eagle eye

            Duh, hello, you are Rupert in Springfield, right? So contact your STATE legislators IN Springfield — FROM Springfield if that helps.

            Me SMUG about “my side”? I’m the one who voted for vouchers the first time around.

            All I’m saying is that these fantasyland polls aren’t going to win anything.

            And thinking the OEA was what got the 2-1 slaughter last time is part of the fantasyland thinking.

            Call it smug if you like, to me it’s facing reality.

  • konnie.teo

    I second your opinion on this matter. Personally I have a child that suffers from ADD, and this aspect of child development has left me puzzled on the options that I can take up. Sometimes I am just at my wit’s end.

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