The Edmond Sun

October 16, 2008

Oklahomans are OK with homeschooling

Brandon Dutcher

Oklahoma homeschoolers can tell you that our state’s legal climate with respect to home education is probably the most favorable in the nation. Indeed, as Scott Moody and I wrote in a March 21 column in the San Francisco Examiner, California homeschoolers upset with onerous restrictions in the Golden State might want to consider moving to Oklahoma. For when it comes to educational freedom for homeschoolers, “You’re doin’ fine, Oklahoma” is a massive understatement.

And it’s not just the legal climate. The climate of public opinion in Oklahoma is also friendly. In May 2004 I commissioned the nationally recognized polling firm Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates to ask 400 registered voters in Oklahoma: “Do you favor or oppose the right of parents to homeschool their children?” The survey, which has a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percent, found that 69 percent of respondents strongly or somewhat favor the right to homeschool, while 26 percent strongly or somewhat oppose.

More interesting news arrived this summer. It appears that Oklahomans believe home education is equal to or better than public education in this state.

A new scientific survey, this one of 1,200 likely Oklahoma voters and with a margin of error of +/- 3 percent, was released in June by the Friedman Foundation, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs and eight other organizations.

In this survey, Oklahomans were 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?” The results are as follows:

• Private school — 41 percent;

• Homeschooling — 19 percent;

• Charter school — 17 percent;

• Regular public school — 17 percent; and

• Virtual school — 6 percent.

Now in one sense, these results may seem surprising. After all, more than 641,000 students actually are attending Oklahoma public schools this fall. That’s more than 90 percent of Oklahoma’s school-age children, which is a far cry from 17 percent. What gives?

Education reporter Mike Antonucci sheds some light on the matter: “If the government, under the force of law, takes money from my paycheck every month to supply me and every other citizen with a Yugo, and I choose not to spend additional personal income on a Chevy, am I ‘choosing’ the Yugo?”

Apparently not. Even if most Oklahomans don’t actually choose homeschooling, it’s interesting to note that nearly one in five (or maybe as many as one in four, depending on how you want to categorize virtual schooling) think it would provide the “best education” for their children.

As the late Milton Friedman once remarked, “There is no other complex field in our society in which do-it-yourself beats factory production. Nobody makes his or her own car. But it is still the case that parents can perform the job of educating their children, in many cases better than our present education system.”

BRANDON DUTCHER is editor of Choice Remarks (okschoolchoice.blogspot.com) and a homeschooling father of four in Edmond.