- The Washington Times - Friday, June 10, 2022

A new poll finds that most Oregon voters from all political backgrounds are unhappy with the state’s K-12 public schools and support school choice.

Nelson Research found in the poll, released Thursday night, that only 16.6% of likely voters in the Beaver State believe the state’s schools are on the “right track.” Another 55.5% said they were heading in the “wrong direction” and the remaining 28.1% were either unsure or refused to answer the question.

The poll found that 24.1% of self-identified Democrats, 9.7% of Republicans and 14.1% of independents believed the state’s public schools are on the right track.

The Salem-based firm, which also conducts polls in the state’s gubernatorial elections, also found that 72.6% of Oregon voters either strongly or somewhat support school choice. Another 24.3% were either strongly or somewhat opposed and 3% were either unsure or did not answer.

“School choice gives parents the right to use the tax dollars designated for their child’s education to send their child to the public school or private school which best serves their needs,” the poll stated before asking the question.

According to the poll, 59.7% of self-identified Democrats, 84.5% of Republicans and 77.4% of independents said they strongly or somewhat support school choice “generally speaking.”

The poll comes amid mounting reports that America’s public school system faces a mounting crisis as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes.

Staffing shortages and enrollment problems continue to dog many school districts as teachers have taken early retirement or left the profession, citing burnout from hybrid learning arrangements.

In a June 2 opinion column, billionaire media mogul and ex-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg cited statistics showing that 1.3 million students have left public schools since the pandemic began. In New York City alone, he noted that K-12 enrollment has dropped 9%.

“The message to educators and elected officials could hardly be clearer: Too many public schools are failing, parents are voting with their feet, and urgent and bold action is needed,” Mr. Bloomberg wrote.

“Until now, however, the only governmental response has been to spend more money — too much of which has gone to everyone but our children,” he added.

Oregon Moms Union, a school choice advocacy group, commissioned Nelson to conduct the poll released Thursday.

President MacKensey Pulliam, who co-founded Oregon Moms Union last year as a concerned parent, said it’s the group’s first poll on school choice.

“What you can see is a snapshot of Oregonians who are tired of not just the failure to educate during COVID, but a public education disaster that started pre-COVID in Oregon,” Ms. Pulliam told The Washington Times.

Nelson surveyed 737 likely Oregon voters online, by cellphone and by landline on June 1. Of those surveyed, 39.9% identified as Democrats, 32.7% as Republicans and 27.4% as independents.

The margin of error was plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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