Charter debate helps bring big money into school super race

A lot of Democratic and education association money is lining up behind Valarie Wilson in her bid to become Georgia’s next school superintendent.

Meanwhile, national school-choice and charter school advocates are helping bankroll Wilson’s Democratic rival, state Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan.

Reports filed today show Wilson, a former chairwoman of the Decatur school board, had raised about $212,000 as of June 30 - a sizable figure in a race that typically attracts little money. Morgan has raised almost the same amount.

Despite the fact that Wilson is facing a Democratic state lawmaker in the July 22 runoff, she’s collected checks from about a dozen current and former Democratic lawmakers, along with money from the Georgia Association of Educators, the Federation of Teachers, the lobbyist for the Georgia School Boards Association, and the wife of DeKalb County School Superintendent Michael Thurmond.

Many traditional education associations and Democratic lawmakers have opposed or at least been skeptical of the expansion of charter schools and other school choice options. Morgan has been a champion of charter schools, and her ex-husband lobbies for the Washington D.C.-based American Federation for Children, a leading national advocate of charter and private schools.

Morgan’s campaign reported it has raised about $205,000 so far, including more than $100,000 in the past three months. The federation contributed $3,700, and Morgan raised tens of thousands more from some of the same groups and individuals who backed a successful constitutional amendment campaign in 2012 that helped create a new pathway to form charter schools.

Among her contributors were charter school advocate and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ($10,000), K12, a Herndon, Va.-based company that manages cyber charter schools around the country ($2,000) and J.C. Huzienga, ($2,500) who founded Grand Rapids, Mich.-based National Heritage Academies, which manages charter schools including one in Atlanta.

The Republicans vying for their party’s nomination in the runoff, Michael Buck and Richard Woods, have both raised about $26,000. Combined, they collected about $20,000 in the most recent reporting period, April 1 to June 30.

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