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Teacher leader on Atlanta's selection as school choice friendly: 'Like saying Chicago is the most murder-friendly city'

The AJC had a story today about the Thomas B. Fordham Institute ranking Atlanta among the top 10 cities nationally for "school choice," which includes charter schools as well as private-school vouchers and public magnet schools.

The charter school community applauded the story, except for one quote from the head of state teachers' group. Here is the quote in AJC reporter Molly Bloom's news story that upset charter school supporters:

Calling Atlanta one of the most "choice-friendly" cities isn't much of a compliment, said Verdaillia Turner, president of the Georgia Federation of Teachers. "That's like saying Chicago is the most murder-friendly city in the nation, " she said.

Turner said charter schools haven't delivered on their promise to be incubators of change. They can attract the kinds of parents more likely to be involved in their children's schools, siphoning resources away from traditional public schools, she said. And they can lack oversight, she said.

Among those upset with Turner's comment was Tony Roberts, president and CEO of the Georgia Charter Schools Association. He sent me a statement praising "Meria Carstarphen, the APS Board of Education, and the many dedicated staff and teachers of Atlanta Public Schools for their progress in improving the education of children by all practical means available—including public charter schools."

But Roberts blasted Turner:

The President of the Georgia Federation of Teachers, reacted to this news in what we consider to be inappropriate and inflammatory words regarding the accolades given to APS and Atlanta.  She said, “That’s like saying Chicago is the most murder friendly-city in the nation.”  Really?  Giving parents options for their children’s education is comparable to “murder?”  Thousands of parents and students in APS would take issue with such careless language.  I would imagine that the citizens of Chicago would reel from such an assessment of their city as well.

These “sticks and stones” of hurtful and destructive words from the GFT President do not help or encourage anyone—most especially students and their parents. Nor do these inflammatory words support the teachers, many of whom may be members of the GFT and now wondering why.

We adults may not seem injured by the inappropriate words of the AFT President.  But our children, their parents and the dedicated teachers who are doing their best to help these children succeed deserve nothing but encouragement, support, and kindness."

Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, also shared her indignation with the comment:

“Parents want high-quality public school options for their children and have turned to charter public schools as the solution. Ms. Turner’s comments that compare school choice to murder are not only tone deaf but horribly disturbing and offensive. She owes charter school families and teachers an apology.”


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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.