OPINION: Latest school takeover plan should be rejected too

A vote by legislators in the state House of Representatives demonstrated contempt and a lack of regard for the will of Georgia’s citizens.

Last November, nearly 60 percent of voters around the state shot down Amendment 1 — a ballot initiative that would have given the governor unprecedented authority to take over local school districts and created the state-run Opportunity School District.

That hasn’t stopped lawmakers in the House from trying to make an end-run around voters by passing another bill — House Bill 338 — that is, in essence, identical to Amendment 1.

Equally disturbing is the fact that Gov. Nathan Deal, who has said publicly that he is undeterred by the vote last November, is discounting the desires of the people he is sworn to represent.

Like Amendment 1, HB 338 would take away local control of local school districts that subjectively are labeled as failing and hand them over to the state. And like the amendment rejected by voters last fall, the new proposal likely is just another power grab to take over public schools and hand them over to privately operated, but publicly funded, charter schools.

This is yet another attempt by out-of-touch politicians aligned with corporate education interests to take another bite at the reform-by-privatization-scheme apple.

Georgia’s citizens, especially our students, deserve the promise of a great public education. Ensuring real opportunity for all of our children means giving schools the resources and supports students need to succeed.

That is why the Georgia Federation of Teachers supports the the Community Schools Bill, Senate Bill 30, which passed unanimously in the Senate Education Committee. This bill recognizes that children and their families must be supported — with services that meet their academic, social, emotional and health needs — in order for students to become successful learners.

The issues raised in HB 338 already have been litigated and decided by Georgia’s voters, who chose in November to protect and support our neighborhood public schools by killing Amendment 1.

But Georgia’s voters must, again, let lawmakers know that we demand that they keep the “public” in public education. It’s up to us to contact our senators and urge them to vote “No” on HB 338.

Gov. Deal and lawmakers need to honor the will of citizens and show Georgia voters some respect.

Verdaillia Turner is the president of the Georgia Federation of Teachers and Atlanta Federation of Teachers.

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