Charter School Fight in Georgia Leads to Union Misbehavior

On Tuesday, residents of Georgia will be voting on a ballot initiative to create a state commission which can authorize charter schools outside the normal political process in the state. Teacher's unions are against the measure which would mean more competition and a diversion of state money to new charter schools. There are now reports that some teachers are using student labor and class time to oppose the initiative.

Amendment One is designed to create a new appeal of last resort for those hoping to create new charter schools in Georgia. It has the support of the Republican governor, Nathan Deal, and a coalition including some Republican state senators. They are opposed by the John Barge, the Republican superintendent of schools, and nearly all of the teacher's unions and associations in the state.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution has been publishing letters both for and against the amendment. Supporters, including a group of college students pursuing education degrees, argue that the current state of Georgia public schools is deplorable and more competition will bring improvement. Detractors argue that there are already hundreds of charter schools in the state and adding more will simply drain resources away from the public schools.

The Education Action Group (EAG), a school reform advocacy group, reports that opposition to the initiative has gone beyond strongly worded letters to the editor and crossed an ethical line:

Kelly Cadman, vice president of school services for the Georgia Charter Schools Association, said public school teachers have recruited students to deliver campaign signs opposing Amendment 1 during class time.

“A teacher at Brighten (charter school) called me tonight to let me know that her son, who is in the IB program at the local high school, was sent on an errand … by one of his teachers,” Cadman wrote in a recent email to fellow education reformers. “The errand (during his language arts class time) was to deliver several Vote No yard signs to other teachers.

“He didn’t find out what the signs were about (didn’t know what Amendment 1 was) until he got to the last teacher and she told him – the kid was aghast, as he knows this impacts his mom,” Cadman wrote. “Obviously, his mom (the charter school teacher) is furious.”

EAG also reports anecdotal evidence that teachers unions are using official time and resources to defeat the amendment:

“I had a lady come to me … who substitute teaches who said when she walked in to teach the GAE [Georgia Association of Educators] was serving donuts and telling teachers to vote no and to tell their students to vote no,” Galloway said.

Opponents also “had an hour-long training session at the Georgia School Boards Association, which is a taxpayer funded training session … on how to defeat the amendment,” she said.

But opponents have gone beyond these steps and introduced the race card into the discussion. New radio ads featuring Rev. Joseph Lowery state that Amendment One is an attempt to resegregate Georgia schools. Rev. Lowery gave the benediction at President Obama's inauguration. He was recently in the news for suggesting he'd returned to the idea he held as a young man that all whites will go to hell.


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