Commentary: OKLAHOMA CITY ― A new statewide poll of Oklahomans released by the Oklahoma Education Association shows near universal support for Oklahoma educators’ walk-out for school funding as action at the capitol enters a third day.
The poll, commissioned by OEA and conducted April 2-3 by Harstad Strategic Research, found that an astounding 93 percent of Oklahomans believe the state legislature has not done enough to increase funding for Oklahoma students and public schools. Public support continues to be strong for teachers at 77 percent, while support for the state legislature (17 percent) and Governor Fallin at (18 percent) remains very low.
The poll also found public support for the walk-out is increasing. In a previous poll conducted in late March, Harstad Research found that Oklahomans support a walk-out for school funding by a figure of 3:2. This latest poll found that that figure has increased to 2:1.
“This poll shows what we’ve known all along: Oklahomans have the backs of educators, believe in a future for their children, and want lawmakers to do more to fund our students,” OEA President Alicia Priest said. “This should send a clear message to lawmakers to come to the table to do better for Oklahoma’s students. Until they do, educators and parents will continue to make their voices heard.”
Each day this week, tens of thousands of educators, students, and community supporters have descended upon the capitol building in support of increased funding for Oklahoma schools. On Tuesday, supporters filled the inside of the building to capacity forcing the fire marshall to briefly close entrances because of fire code. Wednesday crowds are even larger. The walk-out has become a national news event, receiving round-the-clock coverage on major broadcast and cable news networks.
During the past ten years, Oklahoma education funding has been cut by nearly 30 percent. This has led to broken chairs and classrooms with more students than chairs. Twenty percent of school districts in the state have switched to four-day school weeks. Students should not have to bear the consequences of these cuts. They should not have to endure inadequate heating and textbooks held together by duct tape and a hope that more pages do not fall out.
“I’m so proud that my teachers are doing this walk-out to support me and my fellow students,” said Macy Godwin, a junior at Mustang High School. “They are fighting for us so we don’t have to be back here in 10 years. This matters, and we all know it.”
“For several years, some of my classes have been so large that I haven’t had enough desks for the nearly 40 students in my room at a time,” said Torie York, who teaches AP Government at Santa Fe High School in Edmond, Okla. “Students have had to sit at my desk or at a makeshift table and chairs I bought with my own money. This is absolutely because of a lack of state funding. Our students deserve better than this. This is why we’re fighting for a better future for them.”
This survey was conducted by telephone reaching 464 likely November midterm voters in Oklahoma by both cell phone and landlines on April 2 and 3. You can view the polling memo here and the topline results here.