Opponents of Opportunity School District sue state over ballot wording

Opponents of the pending constitutional amendment that would allow Georgia to take over “failing” schools and the money that goes with them are filing a lawsuit alleging that the wording on the Nov. 8 ballot referendum is misleading.

The complaint says the language for the Opportunity School District vote “is misleading, subjectively worded and propagandizes the very issue being decided on the ballot,” according to a statement by the campaign group Keep Georgia Schools Local, a coalition that includes teacher advocacy groups.

The ballot item, Amendment 1, asks voters whether the state should be allowed to “intervene” in failing schools to “fix” them. It does not mention that if the amendment passes, the governor would have authority to create a new statewide school district that could assume control over 20 schools a year up to 100 at any one time, taking the local tax dollars that support them. The schools could be closed, operated by the state with or without the local district or converted to charter schools. In the latter case, the operators and school governing boards would be selected by the new superintendent, who would answer only to the governor and would not be elected.

The plaintiffs include an Atlanta parent, a teacher and the Rev. Timothy McDonald. McDonald filed a similar suit in 2012 against the ballot language for a constitutional amendment authorizing a state charter schools authority. The lawsuit had no effect, voters overwhelmingly approved the measure.

The suit was filed on behalf of all Georgia voters. The defendants are Gov. Nathan Deal and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who had key roles in authoring the the ballot item, plus Secretary of State Brian Kemp, whose duty it is to publicize the language.

Those who are for the opportunity school district say school systems have had their chance for years to take action and have failed students, leaving them stranded in sub-par schools, which negatively influences their chances to get ahead in life.

The new district will break the educational gridlock and give parents and students different choices and a better chance than the current system, according to Atlanta attorney Glenn Delk.

Read an in-depth report at  www.myajc.com/s/education.

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