June 13, 2018, Atlanta -- Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams talks with supporters at her campaign headquarters.
Photo: Ty Tagami
Photo: Ty Tagami

Stacey Abrams calls herself the “public education” governor

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams wouldn’t touch the controversy swirling around a GOP opponent caught on tape admitting he put his election ahead of public policy, but on Wednesday she proclaimed herself the “public education” candidate.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said in a surreptitious recording that a former rival released last week that he supported “bad” education policy to discourage school choice advocates from putting $3 million behind the campaign of his then-primary opponent Hunter Hill.

At an election event at her campaign headquarters in Atlanta on Wednesday, Abrams didn’t directly respond to a question about Cagle’s recorded admission, saying only that she knows it’s a topic that Republicans are discussing. But she positioned herself as a critic of the kinds of school choice policies that Cagle has backed.

Abrams said Georgia hasn’t done a good job ensuring that state charter schools are worthy of the public tax dollars they’ve been given, and she said her mission as governor would be to rescind the $100 million private school scholarship program Cagle supported though he knew it was bad in “a thousand different ways.”

Cagle said those words in a post-election conversation in May with defeated primary opponent Clay Tippins, whose endorsement he was seeking. Cagle, who didn’t realize Tippins was recording their meeting, said he supported the private school tuition program so the Walton Family Foundation wouldn’t back Hill’s campaign.

Hill and Tippins are out of the race, and Cagle faces only Brian Kemp in the July runoff election. Walton has said it’s not involved in the election.

Tippins’ uncle is a state senator who opposed an increase in charter school funding that lawmakers ultimately approved. The former gubernatorial candidate asked Cagle why he’d backed the measure after telling his uncle he wouldn’t. Cagle shifted the conversation to the scholarship program that is funded with tax credits, saying he didn’t like it but pushed it through the Senate to help his gubernatorial campaign.

Abrams said both programs are draining money from public education, undermining teachers and schools.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.