‘Tricky Wording’ on ‘School Takeover’ Ballot

By: Taylor Cromwell
Photo By: Taylor Cromwell – Keep Georgia Schools Local shares flyers and bumper stickers to CCHS Parent Teacher Student Association saying “vote no on state takeover”

The debate over the controversial Opportunity School District proposal continues to heat up among Athens residents and people across the state.

One issue on the ballot this fall asks, “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?”

This question, and the proposal behind it, concerns many local parents, teachers and education groups.

Last night, Keep Georgia Schools Local addressed the Clarke County High School Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO), urging people to ‘vote no’ on Amendment 1 this November.

One of their arguments against this proposal is that the information on the ballot could be misleading for voters.

Amendment 1 refers to the vote to amend Georgia’s Constitution to set up ‘Opportunity School Districts’ across the state for failing public schools. Opposition against this amendment say that the wording on the ballot doesn’t reflect how the law would actually affect schools.

“When people only read and hear that everybody likes it. It passes overwhelmingly if that’s all that anyone knows,” says Bertis Downs, referring to the wording of Amendment 1.

Downs, a local parent and volunteer for Keep Georgia Schools Local, wants parents, teachers and citizens to know how the OSD’s could harm local schools instead of helping them. He argues that this issue comes down to “what’s best for children and who we trust to make that decision.”

“I trust professionals. I trust people who have devoted their life to changing kids lives,” says Downs.

Downs and other volunteers are working diligently to close the information gap on how Opportunity School Districts could affect schools in Athens. If a school is designated as “failing,” the state would be able to takeover its funding and make decisions for the school. They are concerned that local communities would lose power over their own schools.

Several parents volunteered to help with Keep Georgia Schools Local after hearing more information about the OSD vote. The organization says it needs help with their phone bank, going door-to-door and other outreach operations.

Mona Robinson is one parent who is concerned about the wording of Amendment 1.

Robinson says that she has “a real problem with the fact that they’re putting misleading information on our voter documents, and people are reading only part of what is being proposed.”

Volunteers believe that if voters are fully informed about what the Opportunity School Districts really mean and how it could affect them then they could have a chance in blocking the amendment change.

For more local reactions to this legislation, tune in to Grady Newsource tonight at 5 p.m.

By: Taylor Cromwell

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