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Voters Sue Over 'Misleading' Charter School Ballot Language

The lawsuit alleges that the preamble and the question on the Nov. 6 ballot is biased in favor of approval of the measure.

A public school teacher and Atlanta minister have filed a lawsuit in Fulton Superior Court against members of the state of Georgia government over the language of the Nov. 6 ballot as it pertains to charter schools.

The lawsuit, filed by Dalton teacher Beverly Hedges and Rev. Timothy McDonald, senior pastor at First Iconium Baptist Church in East Atlanta, names Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp as co-defendants. The complaint alleges that Gov. Deal used language in the preamble to the ballot question and the ballot question itself that is misleading and that was not passed by the General Assembly.

This is how the ballot language currently appears:

Provides for improving student achievement and parental involvement through more public school options.

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

Do you think the ballot language for Amendment 1 is biased? Vote in the poll and tell us in the comments!

“Gov. Deal knows that the truth about what Amendment 1 [the charter school amendment] will do is not popular with Georgia voters, so he wrote a trick question and placed it on Georgia ballots,” said Bryan Long, executive director of Better Georgia said in a press release.

“The question voters will see sounds like a miracle solution for fixing Georgia’s troubled school system. It’s not. It’s an open invitation for out-of-state charter school corporations to profit from Georgia tax dollars. It will create a new, costly and unelected state commission with the power to use tax dollars to pick which companies will profit off our students.”

The press release goes on to say that polling has discovered that the current ballot language would shift the vote on Amendment 1 by as much as ten percent.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction on the vote for the amendment, pending rewriting of the ballot language.

Bert Brantley, a spokesman for Families for Better Public Schools, has responded to the lawsuit filed against the governor.

"The anti-charter side cannot even get the ballot language correct when they are complaining about it. The question asks voters if they support “local or state” approval, not “local and state” approval as their press release indicates, and that one word makes a big difference," he said.

"This is another attempt by the anti-charter opposition to make this election about everything but the issue at hand."

To read the full text of the lawsuit, see the attached PDF.

Mike_Midtown October 31, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Georgia should do what the state of Virginia does: have the proponents and opponents write a short summary after each initiative. The voters of Georgia were also duped when the law passed to allow judges to make restrictions on employee mobility through stricter interpretations of non-compete clauses or to make "Georgia more competitive".
Great Schools October 31, 2012 at 08:44 PM
@Mike_Midtown--that's a great idea and would solve this recurring problem of biased referendum and amendment language. Many voters are going to be misled to think that there is not currently any way to start a charter school and this amendment could establish one for the first time--very misleading.
Lisa Martin-Hansen October 31, 2012 at 11:38 PM
The language was HUGELY biased! It doesn't say what the bill is. I just gave a political slant to it. Shame!
David Claude Warlick November 01, 2012 at 02:29 AM
The amendment is biased only in that it promises more school options, but doesn't provide adequate financing to make new charter schools sustainable. Charter schools get only a fraction of a district's per student QBE, and none of the capital funding (for the school building). Georgia needs to pass this amendment, because it does provide quality options for parents and students in distress, but once passed, Georgia needs to equalize the funding between all public students and all school buildings.
Andre Dickens November 02, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Totally biased. Completely arrogant, distasteful, and unethical to mislead the voters that way. I plan to vote no but I can see how someone that has not read up on the issue will just check the Yes box because who does not want to improve student achievement or do anything at the request of local communities? I believe in the @Mike_Midtown example from Virginia as an alternative to how we are wording things. Deal must be mad about that failed dang sales tax increase referendum and now wants to make sure that people vote yes this time. The nerve! Yeah, I'm glad they (we) are suing. FYI, I'm cool with Charter schools. My kid attends E. Rivers public school but there is nothing against charter. But this wording stinks.
Jose G. Perez November 05, 2012 at 06:46 AM
The language is not just "biased." It is fiction. It should say, "Should governor Nathan Deal be allowed to appoint an unelected volunteer board to overrule your local school board on how your children should be educated?" This is not about being for or against parent-promoted charter schools, which local school boards are ALREADY authorized to establish, and have, in fact, done so. It is about "school choice" -- Gov. Deal and his cronies imposing *their* choice of schools on you, financing these new state-approved privately-run schools at 100% while they cut back funding and starve our local schools run by our elected school boards of the resources they need. In that way, they will force parents to "choose" for-profit charter schools that local communities have absolutely no control over. We don't need the state government in change of people's education. It's the state government that desperately needs educating by the people. And we need a law that makes it a criminal offense --punishable with prison sentences for executives-- for any corporation or officer of a corporation that contributes to election campaigns of people running government entities the corporation does business with or is seeking business from.
Ms. November 05, 2012 at 11:07 AM
There's still too much confusion about what this law would actually mean, to change the Constitution. I know of maybe 2 Q & A sessions in the past 2 weeks, but we're talking about fundamentally changing the way our education system works, that's not really good enough. Maybe if they would have started 6 months ago, or a year out explaining this, it'd be a different story. I can only suspect there's a reason they didn't and it correlates with the wording of the question, confusing people and keeping them in the dark is more preferable to their desired outcome. Maybe if we had heard success stories (I actually did hear one first hand), or saw financials of the for-profit companies, I'd be more persuaded. But there's too much secrecy and confusion around this to take any more chances with dwindling education funds.

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