State Rep. Tommy Benton: People high up want Amendment 1

State Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson) had some striking things to say about Amendment 1 in an email to a constituent that was picked up by conservative blog Peach Pundit this morning. In his email, Rep. Benton clearly states that the ballot language for Amendment 1 was intentionally vague to make it easier to pass and that “people high up wanted this legislation.” Without a doubt, he is talking about those that wrote the ballot language, including Gov. Nathan Deal and Speaker of the House David Ralston

Here’s exactly what Rep. Benton said word-for-word:

“What can I say, People high up wanted this legislation. I was at the beginning of the meeting. I was the one who got Rep. Jones to say that if the bill were changed in the Senate she would not support those changes. I had to leave before the vote was taken to chair my own committee that was meeting at 3:30. The vagueness of the ballot wording is something they want to keep. They think if they keep it vague it will more easily pass. The wording has been changed from the time the bill was introduced. Even as vague as it is now it is better than in the beginning…”

This proves without a doubt, that those at the top are trying to confuse Georgia voters as they head to the polls today. We cannot stand for this and we must spread the word this afternoon. Vote NO on Amendment 1 and tell your friends, neighbors, and colleagues to do the same!

Sign our pledge to Vote ‘No’ on Amendment 1. 

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Atlanta Journal-Constitution urges NO vote on Amendment 1

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia’s largest newspaper, has published an editorial opposing Amendment 1, adding to an already lengthy list of newspapers, elected officials, professional educators, and countless Georgians who see through the smoke and mirrors of Amendment 1 and oppose the so-called Charter School Amendment.

From the AJC’s Editorial Board:

We don’t oppose charter schools, but we do urge voters to say “No” to the proposed amendment to Georgia’s Constitution that would create a legal way for the state to circumvent local school boards to create and fund charter schools.

While we have some concerns about the implications to local decision-making when it comes to schools, the strongest argument against Amendment One is simply that the state can’t afford it.

Given that Georgia’s existing public schools are so pitifully underfunded, we find it unconscionable to ask voters to divert precious tax dollars to benefit a relative few.

So-called “austerity cuts” and other reductions have sliced away state support for K-12 education for a decade. Georgia Department of Education figures put the total funding formula shortfall at $5.7 billion.

With just hours left until Election Day, it is crucial that we spread the word, educate voters about what Amendment 1 really does, and be sure to vote (if you haven’t already) on Tuesday. Vote NO on Amendment 1!

Sign our pledge to Vote ‘No’ on Amendment 1. 

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Gov. Deal sued over Charter Amendment language

A lawsuit was filed this week against Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, and Secretary of State Brian Kemp over the ballot language for the charter school amendment.

Two Georgia voters, Beverly Hedges, a school teacher from Dalton, and Rev. Timothy McDonald of the First Iconium Baptist Chruch in Atlanta, filed a lawsuit on Monday in Fulton County Superior Court, calling on the court to state that the ballot language for Amendment 1 is written to intentionally mislead Georgia voters.

Voters are fed up with Gov. Deal’s attempts to pull the wool over the eyes of Georgians by providing us with misleading ballot language and typical political trickery.

We’ve seen through the smoke and mirrors and we know exactly what Amendment 1 is about: it’s nothing more than attempt to strip away local control over our public charter schools and put power into the hands of unelected political appointees in Atlanta.

We stand with the plaintiffs and we are hopeful that the courts will see the ballot language as nothing more than attempt confuse and mislead Georgia voters.

Better Georgia had the story Monday and included the following:

According to the lawsuit (PDF), these are a few ways the ballot language is misleading:

  • The ballot language states that the amendment is necessary for “state and local approval of public charter schools,” but the Georgia Constitution and state laws already permit charter schools.  Even if a local school board denies an application for a charter school, existing law includes an appeal process to the state.
  • The ballot language speaks to “public charter schools” and the preamble to “improving student achievement and parental involvement,” but the amendment actually allows for the creation of a third public school system.  This new public school system lacks any direct accountability to local voters, parents and officials and will drain state money that would otherwise go to local school systems.
  • The preamble uses a bold font, larger than the actual language passed by the General Assembly, to promote a biased and unsupportable promise of “improving student achievement” and increased “parental involvement.” The enabling legislation contains no provisions for these statements.

News outlets throughout the state are picking up on the lawsuit and you can be assured that the story will continue to grow throughout the week. Please be sure to share the latest news through email and social media. Stay tuned to Better Georgia Schools for the latest developments on the lawsuit.

Sign our pledge to Vote ‘No’ on Amendment 1. 

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Sen. Jason Carter: Charter school amendment weakens local control

State Senator Jason Carter (D-Decatur) has weighed in with his opinion on Amendment 1, the charter school amendment. Sen. Carter highlights how our constitutional amendment process is dysfunctional and notes that Amendment 1 is not about building stronger schools.

With carefully worded language, state officials are ensuring that Georgia voters aren’t getting a clear picture of what would happen if Amendment 1 passes next month. Instead, they’re concealing their true intentions: stripping local school systems of control; creating a new state school board filled with unelected political appointees; and opening the door for out-of-state corporations to run our charter schools.

From Senator Carter’s op-ed:

This year’s Amendment One would amend the Constitution to take away local school board control of charter schools and give the state government sweeping new powers.  This transfer of ultimate control over certain schools from elected local boards to state bureaucrats is the fundamental change requiring a constitutional amendment and is the amendment’s purpose.  Unfortunately, your ballot will not even mention this issue.

Instead, politicians drafted the ballot question to ask: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”  This question is intentionally misleading on the fundamental issue of whether local control should be preserved or subverted.  In fact, local approval of charter schools already exists, and local school boards have approved more than 200 charter schools in Georgia.  The state’s new powers would primarily be meaningful only if a local elected school board had already rejected a charter school’s application.  Finally, requests under the proposed system need not, and likely would not, arise organically from “local communities”—they could originate from anywhere, including from groups seeking public money for schools to be run by private, for-profit companies.

Stand with Sen. Carter and stand for local control of our schools. Vote NO on Amendment 1.

Sign our pledge to Vote ‘No’ on Amendment 1. 

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Go to School! Georgia high schoolers on the Charter Amendment [VIDEO]

Seniors at Atlanta’s Grady High School put together a video to tell voterswho is behind the charter school amendment and what will happen if it passes. Share the video below with all of your friends and neighbors to let them know what’s going to happen if the amendment passes. Thanks to the two seniors at Grady who put together the video with a great breakdown of Amendment 1.

Sign our pledge to Vote ‘No’ on Amendment 1. 

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Augusta Chronicle: Charter Amendment expands state’s power

While you wouldn’t come close to guessing the Charter School Amendment expands the state’s power if you only read the ballot language, Amendment 1 does indeed give Georgia incredible power over our local charter schools. Through some thoughtful journalism, the Augusta Chronicle breaks down the Charter Schools Amendment and gives voters a clear picture of exactly what will happen if the amendment passes next month.

[Read more...]

Attempt to muzzle school boards over Charter Amendment denied

Earlier this week, Atlanta attorney, and supporter of Amendment 1, Glenn Delk filed a lawsuit against 180 school boards across Georgia, including Fulton County, referring to them as the “Education Empire” alleging they were using taxpayer dollars to oppose the charter school amendment. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Wendy Shoob rejected those accusations in a hearing held Wednesday. Better Georgia Schools is pleased with the denial. Delk’s bully tactics were simply intended to muzzle school boards from answering important questions about this debate for parents.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has the story:

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Georgia charter schools already have the ability to appeal to state

Advocates for Georgia’s charter school amendment claim that charter school applicants need another outlet if their local school board rejects a charter application. What the pro-Amendment 1 side isn’t telling you is that local charter schools already have an appeals process at the state level.

In fact, a sizable number of Georgia’s charter schools have successfully appealed their rejected charters from their local school board, negating the need for this new state charter schools board.

If Amendment 1 passes, all we are doing is creating a separate superfluous school board made up of unelected officials who can dictate what we can and cannot do regarding charter schools in our local community.

Athens Banner-Herald columnist Myra Blackmon discusses this very issue in her recent column: [Read more...]

State Sen. Frank Ginn opposes Amendment 1, for now

Last night, State Sen. Frank Ginn, R-Danielsville, told a forum at Clarke Central High School in Athens that he will vote ‘No’ on Amendment 1 — that’s the amendment which is cleverly disguised as a charter school question.

State Sen. Ginn told the crowd:

“For me, I voted for putting the amendment on the ballot. I’ll also tell you that when I go home and I vote, I’m going to against the amendment.”

Here’s the audio:

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The Athens Banner-Herald reported the reasons why he’ll vote ‘No’ on the amendment he placed on the ballot: “I’m going to vote against the amendment. I’m for the teacher. Bureaucracy, we see, is not helping.”

But the audio recording is important here. Given the bully tactics that Gov. Deal, Attorney General Sam Olens and other pro-Amendment 1 advocates have used to silence — or attempt to silence — all opposition, we fully expect State Sen. Ginn to change his position, try to explain it away or pretend it never happened. [Read more...]

School boards sued over opposition to charter school amendment

Making good on his threats, Atlanta attorney Glenn Delk filed suit against 180 school districts in Georgia alleging that they are systematically trying to defeat Amendment 1, which is disguised on the ballot as a charter school amendment.

Delk alleges that school boards, along with the “Education Empire,” are conspiring to use taxpayer dollars to bring down Amendment 1.

It’s worth noting that teachers, superintendents and elected school board members do not lose their freedom of speech when they enter a classroom door. These community leaders may advocate for any position they choose — as long as they don’t use public money to pay for their speech.

And Delk, an attorney, seems to know this.

Delk hasn’t targeted a single elected official who advocates for the passage of the amendment. If he thinks those advocating for a ‘No’ on Amendment 1 should face legal action, surely Delk would want to make sure everyone is playing by the rules.

[Read more...]