The results from Georgia— Victory in the Battle Against a State Takeover District
by Bertis Downs – Athens, GA parent and Network for Public Education Board Member and Janet Kishbaugh – Atlanta, GA parent and Public Education Matters- Georgia Member
For those of us who support public education, a real bright spot in the November 2016 election was the defeat of Amendment 1 in Georgia. Amendment 1 proposed to allow the state to create a state-wide “Opportunity School District” (OSD) that would take over and privatize so-called “failing schools,” patterned after similar districts in Louisiana, Tennessee and Michigan.
The Amendment was backed by dark money from wealthy education reformers and companies seeking to do business in Georgia, all hidden behind a legal structure created at the Governor’s behest. The ballot measure itself was so deceptively worded that the opposition filed a class action suit on behalf of all Georgia voters claiming it effectively disenfranchised voters. From the start, it was clear that if the tricky ballot language was all voters read and knew when they entered the voting booth, we would lose badly.
The early polling showed that the language sounded great to most people, but the law wasn’t great for those who support democratically-accountable public schools. So our task for months was to relentlessly inform people of the real facts of the saccharinely-worded preamble and amendment that talked about “improving student performance” and “increasing community involvement.” The proposal would have taken over high-poverty, minority schools; silencing parents and community members in unprecedented ways.
Amendment 1 represented such an extraordinary power grab that a very effective and organized opposition formed and began working together in earnest more than a year ago. The coalition included a diverse group of organizations and individuals from across the state: teachers’ groups like the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE), the Georgia Federation of Teachers (GFT) and the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE); parent organizations like the Georgia PTA; community organizations like Concerned Black Clergy, the NAACP, and Public Education Matters Georgia; and official and unofficial social media groups including T.R.A.G.I.C. and Better Georgia.
To show the diversity of the group, on the day that the Vote “NO” yard signs were made available, the first two phone calls requesting them in bulk came from a Democratic committee chair and from a tea party official.
The coalition became the campaign to Keep Georgia Schools Local. The goal was to turn “no-information” or “low-information” voters The results from Georgia— Victory in the Battle Against a State Takeover District - Network For Public Education: