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The Real Truth About Who is Against the Charter School Amendment

There are two sides to every story. Before you decide which way to vote on the Charter School Amendment, you should explore which groups are for and which are against.

There has been much recent discussion regarding Georgia’s upcoming Charter School Amendment, which would amend the state’s constitution to allow state authorization of charter schools. I’ve also seen many comments on the supporters of the amendment and where the funding is coming from and what they are going to gain from this. Now, I am not a politician and I am not an educator. I don’t serve on any boards. I am a simply a parent of children in a charter school that wants to keep her options.

Because I have a personal stake in the outcome, I talk to a lot of people about the amendment. Many are in agreement, some want to learn more about it. One night after coming out of a town hall meeting, I found a flyer on my car with a big red apple and a mean looking teacher that shouted, “VOTE NO – The Vote Smart Campaign.” I wondered who actually went to the trouble to print these color, two-sided cardstock flyers and how could they afford it?

I sat down to read over the flyer. They listed the reasons the amendment was bad and listed the “bad people” that support it: Georgia Parent Advocacy Network (GPAN), Governor Nathan Deal, Georgia Chamber of CommerceAmericans for Prosperity100 DadsBrighter Georgia Education Coalition and Students First.

Then they listed the opposers, but not fully by name. The flyer said: “Every major state education organization in Georgia, including PAGE, GAE, GPTA, GSSA, GSBA, GREA and GAEL is working with the Vote Smart campaign to defeat passage of this amendment.” It goes on to ask for contributions: www.votesmartgeorgia.com. Well, that name sounds kind of familiar. It sounds like www.votesmart.org, a non-partisan reference for biographies, voting records, issue positions, ratings, speeches and campaign finance information for all politicians. It is pretty clear that this flyer is supposed to represent votesmart.org, except that the real votesmart.org doesn’t tell you how to vote, it simply gives the information and lets you make your own choice. 

Now it is time to have some open dialogue about who is funding opposition to the amendment and why their names are not spelled out in the flyer: Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE), Georgia Association of Educators (GAE), Georgia School Superintendents Association (GSSA), Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA), Georgia Retired Educators Association (GREA) and Georgia Association of Educational Leaders (GAEL). These are not education organizations, but EDUCATOR organizations that protect the interests of school employees and administrators that are paid with our tax dollars. And all of them have links to the votesmartgeorgia.com website.

Now I know what you are going to say: “There are no teachers’ unions in Georgia.” Let’s be clear-there is no legal collective bargaining. But the unions exist! Let’s start with Georgia Association of Educators. Their mission, according to their own web site: “GAE exists to support, protect, and strengthen those who nurture Georgia’s children.” GAE averages $9 million in annual revenues. The National Education Association (NEA) is the parent to Georgia’s GAE. NEA is one of the most powerful political groups in America. NEA spent over $50 million in political activities and lobbying alone in 2009. They have over 3 million due paying members. Like most unions, it exists solely to protect its members. It rises to challenge education reform in the form of school choice, especially charter schools. Georgia Federation of Teachers is another union. They contributed to the campaign funds of many Georgia elected officials in the state House and Senate. Union state level political contributions from Georgia groups total at least $1 million annually.

The next time that you see news coverage of a charter amendment debate or political forum, take note of who represents each side. They are easy to recognize: supporters are parents, students and charter leaders. They have a positive attitude and try to engage in meaningful debate. Opponents are even easier to spot: they are union leaders, lobbyists, special interest groups and politicians. They frown and look angry and demand you to listen. They don’t like to be questioned, and they try to motivate you with fear. And they never bring along children.

Don’t be fooled…vote kid smart, Georgia.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Vote-Kid-Smart-Georgia/422487624453474

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Kara Martin October 09, 2012 at 09:40 AM
ME- While I appreciate your comment about the law suit the statements you made are actually false in regards to Fulton county and their taking no position on this amendment or passing out anti charter material. As a matter of fact, if you read the article their is a recording about how Superintendents (while on the clock, being paid by the tax payer) went to a meeting where they were given step by step instructions on how to LOBBY against this amendment in schools, board meetings and reaching parents using school email systems. There have also been anti charter material distributed at curriculum night at many schools through out GA and by PTA's. This law suit is not about whether or not you agree or disagree with the Amendment. It is about whether you feel that elected officials or those employed by the tax payers should be allowed to lobby for or against a constitutional Amendment while using tax payer funds when it is clearly a violation of the law. Their personal opinion is available after they clock out of work for the day. The PTA is a non-profit 501C3 and therefore is NOT allowed to lobby against or for an amendment as that is a violation of their status and also grounds for losing that non profit status. This is simply about following the law. Are you saying that the boards, schools and PTA"s should not have to follow the law?
No More Bullies October 09, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Kara- you are wrong about PTAs and other 501c3s not being able to lobby. 501c3 organizations can and do lobby, but it cannot be their sole purpose. There are provisions within their 990 tax form every year for these activities to be specified. Governor Deal has clearly been advocating for the amendment while "on the clock." Does he not also need to "follow the law"? Get up to speed on IRS facts and STOP spreading misinformation. Note that amendments and ballot issues are considered legislative issues and are covered as acceptable lobbying activities. http://www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Lobbying
Jessie October 09, 2012 at 01:01 PM
Thanks, NMB for setting the record straight on what 501c3s can and cannot do. I have been involved with non-profits for years and cringe whenever I hear others say what we can and cannot do. We are permitted to campaign for an ISSUE, not for a candidate or a political party, as long as that is not our sole pupose. PTAs are well within the guidlines here. PTAs have always taken a stance on issues, that is why we have hot lunches in the schools, mandatory school age and school nurses, just to name a few of the issues that PTA has supported in the past.
Me October 10, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Kara, No, YOUR statements are false and several have already been rebutted above. Fulton has taken no stand on the amendment. That is clearly stated on the FAQ. Attending the school superintendents' conference is against the law? Ummm... Again, in my district, there have been NO materials distributed at open house or curriculum nights (OR home in backpacks), NO e-mails or phone blasts. "This law suit is not about whether or not you agree or disagree with the Amendment." Really? Then why does it specifically state "political activity using taxpayer resources IN OPPOSITION TO a proposed constitutional amendment?" (Emphasis mine.) If the school boards, PTAs, etc., supported it, this wouldn't be a problem? Gov. Deal using taxpayer funds (lots of it) isn't a problem because he's in support? Just THINK about it. (Perhaps you might want to read exactly what you signed and had notarized a bit more carefully...).
John October 11, 2012 at 01:19 AM
Judge Shoob sent the shills for the so call "School Choice" movement packing...as she should have.

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