Gov. Nathan Deal’s campaign for a statewide Opportunity School District took another hit on Wednesday when a television station reported he used the words “colored people” to a Savannah audience during a speech about the proposal.
Fox 5 News’ Dale Russell uncovered video of Deal using the racially-charged phrase on Oct. 3 in a speech before the Technical College System of Georgia educators:
“The irony of some of the groups who are opposing doing something to help these minority children is beyond my logic,” Deal said in the speech. “If you want to advance the state of colored people, start with their children."
Deal told Russell that when he made the reference to “colored people” he was talking about the NAACP – the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
“Well, I think I misspoke in that I didn't use the entire name of the organization,” he told the Russell. “I don't think I misspoke in terms of where I think they should be on this issue.”
Following the speech, Technical College System of Georgia Commissioner, Gretchen Corbin, took to the podium and said the governor asked her to clarify what he said.
“He wanted to refer to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and asked me to send his regrets for not stating the full statement of his thoughts,” Corbin said.
Deal has been increasingly on the defensive about the fate of the plan, a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to take control of perennially failing schools.
Teachers groups and other opponents have pumped more than $5 million to oppose the plan, polls show strong resistance from both Democrats and Republicans and more than 40 school boards have come out against it. They say it defies local control and puts too much power in the hands of an aloof state entity.
Deal and his allies still have favorable ballot language on their side, and millions of dollars in advertisements urging for its passage. But the governor has recently stepped up his fight with school boards, hinting at a new policy approach if his measure fails to pass. And on Wednesday, he said his plan is the only option to help students in failing schools avoid a cycle of violence and crime.
“Would I have preferred to do something else? Obviously. I’m in my last term as governor. I didn’t have to take this on,” he said. “But I think there’s a responsibility when you’re elected to be the governor of this state to focus on the problems that your state has.”