September 7, 2016 10:47 am

The State of Things in Georgia — Vote No on Amendment #1.

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by Bertis Downs, Athens GA parent and board member of Network for Public Education and Janet Kishbaugh,  Atlanta parent and co-founder of Public Education Matters-Georgia


13516301_1740019636277178_2856361968425386148_nA big battle looms in Georgia, pitting the usual big-money, backroom supporters of a state takeover school district against the rest of us. It is the same battle being fought all over the country in the struggle against The Chaos Theory plan for public education “reform,” but in this instance those of us fighting against the persistent and well-funded forces of privatization and standardization have reason to be somewhat optimistic, despite the uphill battle we face.

A coalition of various groups and individuals around the state seems well organized, funded at least moderately, and appears to have a winning message in the attempt to turn “low-information voters” into “more-information voters.” The “Opportunity School District,” (whatever they call it – because of course they get to name it with the cheery word “opportunity” – and however they phrase it, including the patently deceptive preamble written by Governor Deal’s own closely-held committee) seeks to follow a model that has failed in other states. The name of the state takeover district and the wording on the ballot garner support, but once people realize what this game is all about, support for the measure falls dramatically.

This is what voters will see when they enter the ballot booth:

Amendment # 1: Provides greater flexibility and state accountability to fix failing schools through increasing community involvement. Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance? ___Yes ___No

14088558_10154566115050962_349871202850245911_nThis is far from a partisan issue, with principled, pro-public school supporters coming out in force and in print against the ballot measure. This wide-ranging coalition of supporters includes conservative activists like Jane Robbins; progressive groups like Better Georgia and Public Education Matters Georgia; parent groups like the Georgia PTA; school superintendents including Phil Lanoue, the 2015 National Superintendent of the Year; teacher groups like GAE, PAGE, and AFT; newspaper editorial boards; professors; individual parents like Athens’ Dan Delamater; and a growing number of community organizations and school districts around the state whose boards are passing resolutions in opposition to the state takeover of local schools. It is a true groundswell of well-reasoned opposition that is bubbling up all over our state.

There is no question that if the only information people have when they walk into the voting booth is what they read on their ballot screen, we will lose. Yes, the intentionally misleading words present a problem for those of us who know what the measure really will do, like State Senator Vincent Fort, who did a great job of rewriting the measure to make clear its actual intentions and effects:

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow an appointee of the Governor to take over local school operation, buildings, and control of all federal, state, and local funding if a school has low scores on standardized tests or for any other reason a future legislature may allow?”

Unfortunately, Sen. Fort’s truthful version of the proposal will not be on the ballot. So that is our task— getting the word out so that people won’t be hoodwinked into voting for a measure that would do precisely the opposite of what is being marketed. In Georgia, we have to spread the word that when people are confronted with some tricky wording that “sounds good” called Amendment #1, the only responsible vote is NO! That is our job in the next 65 days, with early voting starting only a month from now. It is a daunting task but we have good allies, and the good word, “NO on #1”, is going out daily. It’s really a race to 50% plus one voter. Whether the medium is the radio, television, hardcopy mailers, Facebook and other social media, billboards, postcards, visits in the checkout line at the store, email or bumper stickers, yard signs or banners flown over high school Friday night lights . . . the timeless phrase “just sayNO!” is as good as any this year when it comes to public education and political power in Georgia.

Don’t get fooled (again) – Amendment #1, just vote NO!

#KeepGeorgiaSchoolsLocal #NoGASchoolTakeover

For more information, see:

Public Education Matters Georgia

Moms and Dads Now Ending Statewide Stupidity (MADNESS) Georgia

Keep Georgia Schools Local

Vote NO to Opportunity School District