Unlikely allies rally to oppose charter school amendment - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Unlikely allies rally to oppose charter school amendment


An unlikely coalition of critics has joined forces to urge voters to say no to the controversial charter-school amendment.

The alliance is similar to the one that opposed the ill-fated transportation tax. This time liberals and conservatives are coming out against the amendment they say would give the state too much power and undercut local control over schools.

Debbie Dooley is an activist with the Atlanta Tea Party that formed on the plank of lower taxes and smaller government.

Amendment One on the November ballot would grant the state more power to create and fund charter schools, which Dooley said was exactly what the tea party opposes.

"It expands government, takes away local control and gives it to unelected bureaucrats and state elected officials," Dooley said.

The tea party, the NAACP and religious leaders as well as some Republicans and Democrats held a press conference at the state capitol to oppose the amendment.

A short timer earlier, Sen. Vincent Fort and a group of black religious leaders held their own press conference, saying the amendment would allow the governor to circumvent local school boards.

"The decision about whether a charter school is created ought to be made by local school boards," Fort said. "If you vote for a school board but that school board's power is taken away from them, your vote is, in effect, being taken away."

Fort also complained that the campaign for the amendment was awash in money from large donors.

Families for Better Public Schools, a political action committee and the main group backing the amendment, has raised nearly $2 million, about 70 times more than what opponents pulled in.

Arkansas-based Walmart heiress, Alice Walton, contributed $350,000.

Bernie Marcus, the co-founder of Home Depot based in Georgia, chipped in $250,000, according to campaign disclosure report on the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission website.

"It's another instance of big money trying to dominate the campaign," Fort said. "There's a lot of money to be made and people are going to have decide if that's for children and for charter schools."

Tony Roberts, who heads the Georgia Charter Schools Association, said critics complain about money when it runs against their interests.

"I don't know what Alice Walton would be trying to grab," Roberts said. "If the school districts were to get a grant from the Walton Foundation or the Bill Gates Foundation, would they turn that away? So it's good when happens to them, but it's bad when they're trying to get more school choice for children here in Georgia."

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