For months, opponents have claimed that the ballot measure’s language — written Gov. Nathan Deal, along with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, and Secretary of State Brian Kemp — misleads voters. Yesterday, a Dalton teacher and an Atlanta pastor continued to press the issue, filing a lawsuit against those three officials over the wording.
Both plaintiffs, Beverly Hedges and Rev. Timothy McDonald, have essentially requested that the Fulton County Superior Court ignore the amendment. Gerry Weber, the attorney representing Hedges and McDonald, says that his clients won't see the amendment as legitimate — even if Georgians vote yes on the referendum.
“What the ballot should do is give a balanced presentation of the content of the constitutional amendment,” Weber, the former legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, told the AJC yesterday.
In addition to the ballot question, a brief preamble describes the constitutional amendment as a measure that "provides for improving student achievement and parental involvement through more public school options.”
Jane Langley, spokeswoman for the anti-amendment group Vote Smart Georgia, has argued for moths that both the ballot question and preamble are “terribly misleading.”
"There’s nothing in the law that provides for better student achievement or parental involvement,” she says.
Phil Andrews, a longtime charter schools consultant and former executive director of the Georgia Charter Schools Association, says the amendment doesn’t directly improve student performance.
“The amendment is very narrow in scope,” he says. “This amendment does not create the charter commission, this amendment does not create any charter schools, this amendment does not fund any charter schools. All this amendment does is [provide] the opportunity to create a new entity that will be a state-wide, single-purpose charter school authorizer.”
Taken at face value, the referendum would change a very specific function, creating a state-appointed commission. According to House Resolution 1162, the legislation which enabled the ballot measure, the constitutional amendment seeks to “clarify the authority of the state to establish state-wide educational policy,” “restate the authority of the General Assembly to establish special schools,” and “provide that special schools include state charter schools.”
Many opponents, including, state Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, remain upset that the amendment’s purpose and the ballot language hardly convey the same message.
"It's a very narrow issue,” he says, “on whether or not the governor and bureaucrats could approve charter schools and circumvent the will of the people who will vote.”
Verdallia Turner, president of the Georgia Federation of Teachers, believes that the ballot question misguides voters altogether.
“A teacher would vote for this if they didn’t know any better because it talks about parental involvement,” she says.
So with less than a week until voters visit the polls, will the lawsuit add a last-minute twist to
Gov. Nathan Deal's master plan to eliminate public schools and teacher unions forever what's been an interesting campaign season? We'll see.
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