American Federation for Children aims to advance school choice in Oklahoma
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Published: 11-Jul-2014

OKLAHOMA CITY – After having helped two school choice candidates to victories in the June 24 primary the American Federation for Children (AFC) has planted its flag in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma City print and broadcasting media titan Russell Perry and Tulsa businessman Bob Sullivan make up the leadership for the recently launched Oklahoma Federation for Children (OFC) leadership.

Perry, owner of several radio stations nationwide and publisher of The Black Chronicle said in a press release, “It is time for the Republican Legislature to catch up with its voters and deliver for the children of Oklahoma.”

Sullivan, Perry’s co-chair, said in the release, “The Republican base wants bolder reforms and more educational choices for Oklahoma’s families.”

The Oklahoma affiliate will have the parent organization’s think tank, lobbying muscle, political action committee and fundraising arm at its disposal, Scott Jensen, senior adviser for AFC.

“We will provide a counter-balance to the clout and sheer power of the education establishment in Oklahoma politics,” Jensen said.

Jensen, once a rising star in the Republican party and the speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly, is involved again in politics after a decade fighting charges he used taxpayer-paid staff members to help him conduct his political campaigns.

He resigned from office in 2006 after a conviction barred him from running again for political office in Wisconsin. He eventually settled on appeal to misdemeanor misconduct charges.

Jensen cut his political teeth as an aide to Gov. Tommy Thompson who championed pioneering school choice measures in the 1990s. 

Jensen has never lost passion for the issue.

His organization has come to Oklahoma to change minds in the Legislature, he told Oklahoma Watchdog.

“The number one issue is that not all the Republicans are supportive of choice, and some who are sympathetic are not aggressive in support,” Jensen said. “Those legislators tend to be responsive to the largest interests, the concentrations of power among their constituents. These include school district officials, members of school boards, superintendents and teacher union members.”

To that end, AFC threw its weight behind four primary races, helping win two. Rep. Anastasia Pittman, D-Oklahoma City, will move into the state Senate if she defeats a Republican foe in her heavily Democratic district. Incumbent Republican state Sen. AJ Griffin of Guthrie rebuffed a primary challenger.

Polls in Oklahoma show majority support for educational choice in general and in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, the only jurisdictions in the state where they are presently permitted.

The poll found Republican support for public charter schools was higher in rural areas which presently do not have charters.

“Frankly, some local chambers of commerce are standing in the way of school choice,” Jensen said. “However, the state Chamber is strongly for choice in education.”

Note: The Tarrance Group poll of 600 likely Republican primary voters was conducted June 8-10. Bruce Nienaber of The Tarrance Group, which conducted the survey for AFC, characterized the sample size as “fully representative … based on the latest voter registration figures within the state.” In a memorandum to OFC supporters, Nienaber said the sample “is such that 95 percent of the time results will be within +/- 4.1 percent of the ‘true values’” that would be found if it were possible to interview every likely GOP primary voter.

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