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Don’t Let Them Pull One on US! Reject the Georgia Charter School Amendment

Did you know that the bill that passed in the Georgia Legislature and signed by the Governor to Amend the Charter School provision in the state constitution was actually written by ALEC? Because this is an amendment to the Georgia Constitution, we citizens must approve or reject it. You probably thought that our representatives in the state legislature sat down and wrote the bill. Nope. It was written by ALEC.

What is ALEC?

ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC, according to Bill Moyers is a corporate bill mill. Through the corporate funded ALEC, corporations and state legislators work behind closed doors to write model bills, and then have them introduced into legislative sessions around the country. This is exactly what happened in Georgia. The Charter School Bill was introduced by two members of ALEC, who are Georgia legislators. Read ahead!

There are 56 Georgia State Senators and 180 members in the House of Representatives. Twenty Georgia senators and 38 members of the House are involved directly in the American Legislative Exchange Council. Of the 58 Georgia legislators that are affiliated with ALEC, ALL are Republican Party members. Two of them, Republican Reps. Jan Jones, and Edward Lindsey sponsored both charter bills, HR 1162 and HR 797. The wording used to in the Georgia bill comes directly from ALEC’s model bill on establishing a state-wide charter school commission.

By the way, the “Stand your Ground” and the immigration bills which were introduced in various states, including Georgia, were written by ALEC and then introduced by ALEC members in their respective state legislatures. Just saying…

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper, the most recent poll shows the vote very close. According to the poll 45% say they will vote yes, 43% are opposed, and 13% either don’t know about the bill, or offered no answer.

The ALEC Charter Schools Amendment is a cleverly written bill that makes it look like charter schools can NOT be approved by the state or local districts. This is absolutely not true. Every school district in the state has the right to set up charter schools. In fact there are about 100 of them in Georgia. The Georgia Department of Education also has the right to approve charter schools.

What the ALEC charter school bill will do is take the decision-making away from local school districts, and put it in the hands of an appointed statewide board who will be sympathetic with corporations who manage brick and mortar and online charter schools which are ready to move into the state to set up shop.

Let’s not be fooled by these legislators. And in particular lets not be fooled by Rep. Edward Lindsey, Majority Whip, Georgia House of Representatives. Lindsey was a co-sponsor of the ALEC charter school bill, a member of ALEC, and chairman of Families for Better Georgia Public Schools. It’s unbelievable that Lindsey is not only the Majority Whip, introduced the charter bill, and heads up an organization that is raising money to support the passage of his own bill!

Families for Better Public Schools is Pulling a Fast One on Us

Families for Better Public Schools, the group that Lindsey heads, and is promoting passage of the bill, has indicated that more than 95% of the contributions come from out-of-state. In September it disclosed that of the $486,750 of contributions, $466,000 came from outside Georgia. Contributions include $250,000 from Alice Walton, daughter of Wal-Mart founder, Sam Walton, $100,00 from K12 Inc, an online school organization, 50,000 from Charter Schools USA, a Florida charter management company, $25,000 fromNational Heritage Academies, a Michigan charter management company, $6,000 from Education Reform Now, a New York-based company headed by Joel Klein, former chancellor of NYC schools, and now an executive with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, $6,000 from Michelle Rhee’s Students First organization in California.

Edward Lindsey, the legislator that introduced the charter bill is our there soliciting money to convince voters to vote for his bill. How is this possible? Read ahead.

Turncoat? I Don’t Think So.

John Barge is the Georgia Superintendent of Education, a Republican, and until August a supporter of the ALEC charter school bill. Then he did the unthinkable. He changed his mind, and came out opposed to the bill because it would be too costly, and until Georgia schools are fully funded, there was no reason to creating another stream of schools.

Then, Rep. Edward Lindsey fired off a letter to Dr. Barge. Lindsey accused Barge of lying on the issue because when he ran for office in 2010 he said he favored the state charter school commission. Now he doesn’t. Lindsey asked Barge, “were you lying then or are you lying now?” Don’t you think that Lindsey is a bit hypocritical?

This is the same Georgia Representative that introduced the bill, and now chairman of the family group that is raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to convince voters to pass his bill.

He also said this in his letter to Dr. Barge:

Therefore, let me simply say that as one public official to another that the most important attribute one person can have is personal trust in the public arena. You have squandered that today – as well as selling out the children of Georgia who need a State School Superintendent who does more than simply cower before the entrenched forces of the status quo.

I think Lindsey is a bit confused. Dr. Barge has not cowered to anyone. Instead, he has stood up against the leaders of his own party in the service of our public schools. Lindsey, on the other hand, has sold out to corporate interests and is using children in the state as the means to achieve this end.

I am not a lawyer, but Lindsey is. But it seems to me that Mr. Lindsey is approaching the boundary of a conflict of interest in that not only is he a leader in the Georgia House, but he also is a member of ALEC which is funded by corporations whose intent is to influence lawmaking in the states by funding ALEC’s activity of writing “model” bills. Lindsey introduced the ALEC bill into our legislature. Now he is involved in heading up a group that disguises itself as a supporter of public schools when in fact it is soliciting money from either very wealthy people (Alice Walton) who want to alter the democratic process, or corporations (K12, Inc.) who will benefit financially if the ALEC’s charter bill is influential in changing the Georgia constitution.

But here is how Lindsey is getting away with influencing his own legislation by using this outside money. Apparently the law reads that public funds aren’t to be used on either side of an argument, like the charter school amendment. Barge was warned by the Georgia Attorney General, and some state school superintendents were brought to court for speaking out in opposition to the amendment. Lindsey is using “private” money raised through an organization. Lindsey has fooled us by setting up Families for Better Public Schools, Inc. an organization that operates as a social welfare organization under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code (status pending). Contributions to Families for Better Public Schools, Inc. are not tax-deductible. This information is on the front page of his website.

His website appears to be a front upon which he and his ALEC associates can peddle influence by making false claims about our public schools.

The Truth Will Set You Free

The notion of a charter school, when originally conceived 20 years ago, was an innovative idea. It was a teacher led initiative which resulted in creative and new approaches to teaching and learning. The idea was hijacked by corporations who saw the charter school provision as back door into local public schools. Coupled with the want of conservative politicians and their corporate allies to privatize government agencies and activities, schools have become the target of this effort. Charter schools are seen as a way to privatize education, and devastate public education as we know it.

The thing is that charter schools do not nearly do as well as regular public schools. The research reported in this post casts a vague eye on the efficacy of charter schools in fulfilling the promise that charters, because they can run more flexibly than their public school counterparts, will create environments where students will not only do as well as public school students, but out do them on achievement tests. The massive amount of data that has been analyzed by Dr. Marder’s team at the University of Texas, and the results of charter school performance in 16 states does not paint a very pretty picture of charter schools.

In a major study done at Stanford University, the researchers concluded that the majority of students attending charter schools would have fared better if they are gone to a public school.

Yet, most of our legislators in the Georgia House and Senate refuse to look at the research that clearly shows that public schools should be supported even more than they are now because they not only do a better job in the academic department, but they work with all students. All families. Regardless.

Don’t be fooled on this bill. Vote no.

Much of my data reported here is based on research by Bill Moyers & Co. and The Center for Media and Democracy located in Madison, Wisconsin. Research on the effectiveness of charter schools compared to public schools has been reported on my blog and can be accessed here, and here.

Learn More About ALEC and the Ballot Bill They Wrote for Citizens of Georgia

The United State of ALEC

This is a one-hour video program by Moyers & Company detailing how corporations and state legislators are colluding to write laws and remake America, one statehouse at a time:

Don’t be fooled by the language used in the Georgia Charter Amendment. The official ballot text reads as follows:[1]

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?

( ) YES
( ) NO

All persons desiring to vote in favor of ratifying the proposed amendment shall vote “Yes.”

All persons desiring to vote against ratifying the proposed amendment shall vote “No.”

If such amendment shall be ratified as provided in said Paragraph of the Constitution, it shall become a part of the Constitution of this state.

Why is this Amendment on the Ballot?

Two years ago the Supreme Court of Georgia’s decision Gwinnett County School District v. Cox found that the state constitution does not authorize any governmental entity to create or run schools that are not under the control of a local board of education. The court ordered that no other government entity can compete with or duplicate the efforts of local boards of education in establishing and maintaining general K-12 schools. And it further states that local boards of education have the exclusive authority to fulfill one of the primary obligations of the Georgia, namely “the provision of an adequate public education for all citizens” (Art. VIII, Sec. I, Par. I.).

This made a lot of politicians and charter school advocates and charter management groups very angry. So angry that they decided to use resources of ALEC and its political and corporate clout to change the Georgia constitution that would enable three politicians (the governor, lieutenant-governor, and speaker of the house) to set up an unelected state charter board that could supersede the authority of your local school system. Even with out local approval this state commission could approve charter schools throughout the state on “taxpayer backs.”

Don’t Let Them Pull One on US! Vote no on the Charter Amendment

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Jack Hassard

Jack Hassard is a former high school science teacher and Professor Emeritus of Science Education, Georgia State University. While at Georgia State he was coordina...