Majority of Oklahomans think teachers' unions are obsolete
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Published: 23-Nov-2010
By Wesley Burt, SoonerPoll

Published: 23-Nov-2010

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 liberals.

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 “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., Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, was commissioned for this poll by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. 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 ± 4.3 percent.

(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.)


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