Oklahoma Voters Embrace School Choice Candidates

The momentum for giving parents robust school-choice options continued to grow in Oklahoma today with the election of more school-choice supporters to the Oklahoma Legislature.

“In race after race, when Oklahomans had a clear-cut choice between a candidate who supports giving parents more education options for their children and a candidate who does not, voters consistently elected the school choice candidate,” said Betsy DeVos, chairman of the American Federation for Children (AFC). “The American Federation for Children applauds these candidates for standing up for the rights of parents and children.”

In total, AFC’s in-state committee, the Oklahoma Federation for Children Action Fund, spent just over $210,000 in Oklahoma legislative races this year, including primary, runoff and general election races.

Among the champions of school choice elected today is Rep. Elise Hall, an Oklahoma City Republican who co-authored legislation this year to give Oklahoma parents Education Savings Accounts funded with a share of their child’s per-pupil allotment. Parents could use that money for tutoring, online services, or private school tuition, depending upon their child’s needs.

Hall’s opponent was a school administrator who campaigned against ESAs and families that homeschool children.

Sen. Dan Newberry, R-Tulsa, was another high-profile victor. His opponent was also a longtime school administrator who opposed ESAs as well as Oklahoma’s wildly popular and successful scholarship program for children with special needs, such as autism. That program allows parents to use state funds to send their children to private schools that serve the child’s unique needs. The program was unanimously upheld by the Oklahoma Supreme Court earlier this year.

In Senate District 25 in Tulsa, Republican candidate Joe Newhouse was elected as a champion of school choice. Newhouse’s election follows an impressive victory in the Republican primary where his runoff opponent was a former school board member who not only opposed school choice but had also voted to deny state-funded scholarships to children with special needs, an act in defiance of state law.

In Senate District 29, Republican candidate Julie Daniels was elected after defeating a primary opponent who was a longtime union official and vocal opponent of school choice, and then beat a general election opponent who was a longtime school administrator also opposed to school choice.

In House District 42, Republican candidate Tim Downing won election today. In his primary, he defeated a longtime school administrator who was a vocal opponent of school choice, and then defeated a Democratic opponent in the general election who also opposed school choice.

The aforementioned races involved some of the starkest choices this election year on the issue of school choice with one candidate a clear supporter and the other a vocal critic. The school choice supporters consistently won.

“The message Oklahoma voters have sent this year is simple: Candidates who side with the public in support of education choice win; those who clearly oppose parental choice in education lose,” DeVos said. “Politicians who ignore the will of the voters pay the price.”

Candidates backed by AFC also won several other races today, including Kevin McDugle in House District 12, Mark Lawson in House District 30, Greg Babinec in House District 33, Ryan Martinez in House District 39, Rep. John Paul Jordan in House District 43, Scott McEachin in House District 67, Sen. Rob Standridge in Senate District 15, and Sen. Nathan Dahm in Senate District 33. In addition, Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, was re-elected earlier this year in a primary, defeating an opponent recruited by the teachers’ union who opposed school choice. Jordan, Standridge, Dahm and Loveless were all supporters of ESA legislation.

Those results are not surprising. In the Sooner Survey, a poll conducted in November 2015 by Cole Hargrave Snodgrass and Associates, over 70 percent of Oklahoma voters supported school choice. Support was bipartisan, and 54 percent of respondents explicitly supported Education Savings Accounts. Those findings are in keeping with the results of numerous other polls conducted by multiple pollsters in Oklahoma in the past two years.

“The 2016 election cycle proves it is time to empower families with school choice to ensure all children have access to a world-class education,” DeVos said. “Oklahoma’s voters understand that parents are the ultimate form of local control and are rewarding candidates who stand with families.”

Join AFC at our post election event in Washington, DC, Elections and Education, 2017 & Beyond, on Thursday November, 10th. Click here for event information and to RSVP.