Georgia group spends $125,000, so far, to fight school takeover plan

The campaign for Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed Opportunity School District constitutional amendment this fall is heating up, and one of the state’s biggest teacher groups is opening its checkbook to make sure critics of the plan are heard.

If voters approve a constitutional amendment in November to create the district, the state will be allowed to take over “chronically failing” schools — schools that Deal said have trapped mostly poor, “voiceless” and minority children for generations. Some local school boards have slammed the proposal, saying Deal is trying to take away local control of schools.

The governor lashed out at critics of his proposed amendment at a meeting of school leaders Thursday.

New campaign disclosures show the Georgia Association of Educators, the local affiliate of the politically powerful National Education Association, has already put $125,000 into a political committee fighting the amendment.

About half of the money the group, called the Committee to Keep Georgia Schools Local Inc., reported spending through mid-August went to pay a Dothan, Ala.-based consultant.

The counterpart group supporting Deal’s proposed amendment, called Opportunity for All Georgia Students Inc., didn’t report having received or spent any money through mid-August.

The information was contained in the initial campaign disclosure filings for each group.

Such “committees” used to raise and spend money on ballot issues report periodically leading up to elections, and what the committees reported recently is likely a drop in the bucket for what will eventually be spent.

Deal said earlier this summer that he expects groups like the NEA to pour $1.5 million into fighting the amendment.

However, the public probably will not get a full accounting of how much money goes into the effort before they vote Nov. 8.

Deal’s supporters created two federal funds that allow them to raise and spend what they want without having to file state campaign reports. Such federal funds also don’t have to disclose donors, although The Atlanta Journal-Constitution learned the identities of individuals and groups who gave about $234,000 to the funds, including the state’s largest highway contractor and the lobbies for banks, beer and liquor distributors, and retail stores.

Those funds were created to push Deal’s agenda, including the schools amendment.

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