POSTED ON AUGUST 29, 2007:
Oklahomans oppose pre-K for 3-year-olds
You may recall that in February Gov. Brad Henry proposed launching an effort "to ensure that each school district can ultimately offer the option of early childhood education for every three-year-old in Oklahoma."
The state legislature promptly nixed the idea, and new survey data may help explain why. It turns out that Oklahoma voters, by a margin of better than two to one, oppose the creation of a public school program for three-year-olds.
Opposition comes from a strong majority of men and women; a strong majority of people at every income level; a strong majority of urban voters and rural voters; a strong majority of liberals, moderates, and conservatives; and a strong majority of Democrats and Republicans. Indeed, opposition to the program is strong in nearly every political and demographic category in Oklahoma.
The statewide survey of 500 registered voters, commissioned by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) and conducted by Cole, Hardgrave, Snodgrass and Associates, shows that 65 percent of Oklahomans oppose the creation of a new preschool program for three-year-olds, while 29 percent are in favor. Six percent of respondents are undecided. The survey, which was conducted April 23-26, has a margin of error of +/- 4.3 percent.
Survey respondents were asked the following question (the arguments were rotated from one respondent to the next):
"Some people say Oklahoma should have a public school program for three-year-olds. They say that this is a critical time for children to learn and that a top problem with our education system is that children start out behind. They also say that because in most families both parents work, children are already in daycare so a more formal school setting will help, and that this will help working Oklahoma families because they won't have to pay for that daycare.
"Other people say Oklahoma should not have a public school program for three-year-olds. They say that our schools are already strapped for money and room and that they could not handle even more kids, and that many schools are just now getting used to all-day kindergarten and their programs for four-year-olds. They also say that at some point, it has to be the parents' responsibility to take care of their children, not the government's.
"What do you think? Do you think Oklahoma should or should not start a public school program for three-year-olds?"
As I mentioned, 65 percent answered "should not," while 29 percent answered "should."
Opposition to the program comes not only from curmudgeonly conservatives like myself. It comes also from liberals (who oppose the idea by a margin of 54 percent to 41 percent) and moderates (54 to 35). Oklahoma Democrats oppose the idea by a margin of 60 to 34.
Opposition comes from Oklahomans who voted for Brad Henry for governor last year (58 to 36) and from Oklahomans who currently have a favorable opinion of the governor (61 to 33). It comes from Democrats who intend to vote for Barack Obama in next year's presidential primary (73 to 28), and Democrats who intend to vote for John Edwards (67 to 31). Even Democrats who plan to vote for Hillary "It Takes A Village" Clinton can't bring themselves to support the preschool-for-3-year-olds idea, opposing it 48 percent to 45 percent.
Oklahoma Republicans (73 to 21) oppose the idea, as do conservatives (72 to 24) and born-again, evangelical Christians (75 to 21).
Men (63 to 30) oppose the idea, but not as strongly as women (67 to 28). Perhaps surprisingly, women employed outside the home oppose the idea by a margin of 72 percent to 23 percent.
Oklahomans under the age of 65 oppose the idea (63 to 32). Oklahomans over the age of 65 oppose the idea (69 to 25).
Urban voters (63 to 29) oppose the idea, as do rural voters (66 to 29).
Voters who have voted in 5 of the last 5 primary elections oppose the idea (70 to 24), and voters who have voted in 4 of the last 4 general elections oppose the idea (66 to 27).
I have long made the argument that further government involvement in the lives of toddlers is bad public policy. One hopes that these survey results will remind politicians that it's not only bad policy, it's bad politics.
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