Why Even Oklahoma Couldn’t Pass a School Voucher Bill

A bill to create a school-voucher program in Oklahoma failed earlier this year to win passage in the state legislature. Oklahoma is a state where 68 percent of those surveyed favor school choice, and yet this small school-choice bill, which was sponsored by the state senate’s president pro tempore and supported by the governor, was defeated.

In 2020, I was the executive director of an Oklahoma charter school authorized by the local public-school district. The district retained 5 percent of our public funding each year as its authorizing fee. When the state passed a law capping charter authorizing fees at 3 percent of public funding, the authorizer raised our rent in an amount equal to the fee reduction.

Both events highlight the critical flaw in the current K–12 education-reform movement: it underestimates the system’s hostility to innovation. Even in a school-choice-friendly state like Oklahoma, even the narrowest of reforms only occasionally survive the challenge mounted by the traditional system. When they do survive, the system easily counteracts them. Our public-education system is a bureaucratic monopoly controlled by special-interest groups and, for all intents and purposes, immune to change.

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