If the pro-charter amendment people are trying to win friends and influence voters to pass the measure in November, they have picked a bad way to do it.
Attorney Glenn Delk and proponents are clearly trying to intimidate opponents of the amendment by accusing the state’s 180 local school districts of illegally using taxpayer money to campaign against the amendment. Fortunately, they lost the first round in Fulton County Superior Court.
While this righteously indignant shot was being fired, an eager beaver in Gov. Nathan Deal’s office was sending out an op-ed piece under the governor’s byline (Anybody want to lay odds that the governor actually wrote the piece?) in favor of the amendment and suggesting newspapers run it.
If I may be so bold as to cross-examine Mr. Delk: If the governor’s office is using taxpayer money to pay E. Beaver to write puff pieces advocating passage of the amendment, please tell me how that differs from what you accuse the school systems of doing? If taxpayer funds can’t be used by local school districts to poke holes in the charter school amendment, why can they be used by the governor’s office to extol its virtues? Will you file suit against Nathan Deal, E. Beaver, et al?
According to Delk, school boards and school superintendents, including the state school superintendent, do not have a legal right to speak out against the amendment. That is absurd on the face of it. How can we get all the facts if only one side is giving them out? And can we trust the pro-amendment crowd to be fair and accurate?
A reader sent me Rep. Matt Ramsey’s (R-Peachtree City) response to my comments that the state board of education can still approve charter schools in spite of the recent state Supreme Court ruling. Ramsey cryptically told her, “No, the state cannot approve charter schools after the supreme court ruling. He is wrong.”
A spokesperson in the state department of education says, in fact, Ramsey is the one who is wrong. The state board of education can approve charter schools. The Supreme Court ruling struck down a law that allowed a statewide commission to approve charter schools, nothing more.
I tried to contact Mr. Ramsey twice for an explanation and never got a response. Happily, the reader knew better and cleaned his clock. (I love my readers.) But what other things are amendment supporters saying on the taxpayer’s dime that are misleading or are downright wrong?
My political opinions are generally 180 degrees from those of Jay Bookman, the liberal editorial columnist of the Atlanta newspapers, but we are on the same page on how the scales are tipped in favor of the governor. Bookman cites the Deal administration’s support of the regional transportation sales tax last summer. The Department of Transportation had statements on its Web site predicting dire results if the tax didn’t pass. An op-ed piece under Deal’s name that appeared on the Web site of the Georgia Municipal Association saying, “Georgians need to support TSPLOST.”
Bookman correctly points out that GMA serves the same purpose for city officials the school board association serves for school board members. I am guessing the school board group could post E. Beaver’s paean to the charter school amendment on their Web site, but never a discouraging word against it. Hark! Do I detect a double standard?
Some of you have asked me what a charter school is. Basically, these are schools not subject to as many rules and regulations as regular public schools, although they are still a part of the public education system. Charter schools have some freedoms that district schools do not but are held to a higher standard of academic and financial accountability. The charter school concept is a good one and I support it. There are over 100 in operation in Georgia and more on the way.
But this isn’t about charter schools. This is about the powerful pro-charter forces and the big money supporting them trying to muzzle the opposition so their voice can’t be heard and to take away local control to create these schools and put the process — and the political contributions that go with it — in the hands of the state.
If Gov. Deal and E. Beaver can spend my tax dollars promoting the charter school amendment, then school boards should have the same opportunity to speak their piece against it. Fair is fair. In the meantime, Mr. Delk, why don’t you do something constructive? Go bully a toadstool.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139.