Kasim Reed opposes failing schools plan, defying his GOP BFF

Gov. Nathan Deal, with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, at a Wednesday press conference to announce plans by health care giant Anthem for a 1,800-job expansion in downtown Atlanta. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

Gov. Nathan Deal, with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, at a Wednesday press conference to announce plans by health care giant Anthem for a 1,800-job expansion in downtown Atlanta. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

Even Gov. Nathan Deal’s fabled friendship with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has its limits.

The bipartisan duo showered each other with praise at a Wednesday press conference announcing a new IT hub in Atlanta, and Hizzoner bit his tongue after the event when he was pressed on whether he supported Deal’s failing schools initiative.

But earlier this week, Reed told the Buckhead Rotary Club that he opposed the governor’s constitutional amendment creating an Opportunity School District, joining the ranks of other high-profile Democrats fighting the ballot initiative. And later Wednesday night he elaborated on his position.

“I oppose this proposal because I believe it will inevitably result in the diversion of public funds for public schools to private entities, with inadequate oversight, and without accountability to parent,” the Democrat said in a statement. “I believe such a change in our state, through the permanent measure of a constitutional amendment, will weaken our public schools and create conditions where they become the last resort for desperate families, rather than a symbol of excellence and source of community pride.”

More: Deal steps up fight with school boards over Opportunity School plan

Reed’s opposition is another blow to the governor’s plan for a new statewide district that would take control of schools deemed to be persistently failing. Deal has tried to tailor his pitch for the initiative, the cornerstone of his second-term agenda, to Democrats in low-performing schools as a way to reverse a cycle of poverty. (To Republicans, he’s also ratcheting up his argument that failing schools breed crime.)

But Reed has aligned himself with other leaders in his party, as well as powerful educators groups and more than 40 school boards, who worry it would hand control of local schools to an aloof entity that’s not accountable to voters and give the governor’s office too much power.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll released last week found nearly 60 percent of voters would vote against the amendment, though Deal’s allies say they remain confident that the question on the ballot, which is more favorably worded, will pass next month.

More: Nathan Deal’s personal investment in Amendment 1

At Wednesday’s press conference, Reed stood silently behind Deal as he elaborated on his fear that students in failing schools are more likely to turn to a life of crime – and more likely to target people in affluent neighborhoods.

“It has no racial overtones at all,” he said. “It’s a matter of fact.”

After Deal left, Reed was asked if he agreed with the governor’s sentiment.

“What I know about the governor is that he has a deep passion about the care for the kids of this state,” said Reed. “The way we get to it may be a bit different, but I don’t question his heart.”

Here’s Reed’s full statement:

ATLANTA –  “Today, I am announcing my opposition to Amendment 1 on the November 8th ballot, which calls for a constitutional amendment to create a state-controlled school district in Georgia. 

 

I oppose this proposal because I believe it will inevitably result in the diversion of public funds for public schools to private entities, with inadequate oversight, and without accountability to parents. I believe such a change in our state, through the permanent measure of a constitutional amendment, will weaken our public schools and create conditions where they become the last resort for desperate families, rather than a symbol of excellence and source of community pride.

 

I am a proud graduate of Fulton County schools. My brothers and I attended Utoy Springs Elementary and Westwood High School, now Westlake High. Our success demonstrates what is possible when children have access to strong public institutions. I want the same for all children in the City of Atlanta and across our great state.

 

Certainly, we must acknowledge that some of our state’s public school systems – including Atlanta Public Schools – face challenges. I understand the frustration among parents and community advocates with the slow pace of change.

 

I also appreciate the strong desire by proponents of this measure to take action now. But I disagree with the method.

 

I emphatically believe that the Georgia General Assembly is the right body to make changes to state education and school policy, through the legislative process.

 

When I served in the General Assembly, I had to make some tough choices, knowing I would need to defend my decisions to voters in my district. By asking voters to decide on a constitutional amendment, responsibility automatically shifts away from the legislators who are elected to address our needs.

 

A constitutional amendment is the wrong vehicle for reform in an area where so much uncertainty exists. By amending the constitution, the public will be restricted in its future ability to make the many adjustments a program like this will surely need. By creating a new bureaucracy accountable only to the executive branch, parents are disempowered and discouraged from being active and engaged in their local school system.

 

Ultimately, I cannot support any measure that weakens our public school system in this manner and threatens its future.”

Reader Comments 0

20 comments
Bobby Reems
Bobby Reems

They don't want to learn can't get the money from the government

Mildred Owens
Mildred Owens

. Because Wrong Is Wrong, No Matter Who Is Doing It.

Debra Pence
Debra Pence

Please vote no on amendment 1 no more government. We don't need government telling locals how to fix schools. Trump Pence 2016

Debra Pence
Debra Pence

Sam Nicholas you got it half way right.

Cathy Mclaurin
Cathy Mclaurin

Good...I was beginning to think he had completely sold out...At least he is on the right side on this.

Mark Cotner
Mark Cotner

Journalism is officially dead. AJC just used BFF in a headline.

Bill Jackson
Bill Jackson

Reed is a democrat. Of course he opposes this plan to improve GA schools.

Sam Nicholas
Sam Nicholas

If Deal is backing this, it's GOT to be CRONEY-RELATED. Teachers Unions is one of the three biggest problems as to why schools are failing. The others: PARENTS and Politicians.

Kent Altom
Kent Altom

Sam Nicholas, and what are you claiming responsibility for? #blamegame

Thomas R. McFarland
Thomas R. McFarland

School unions in GA are professional associations. They do not negotiate contracts. They are not really unions. Blame someone else but look into a mirror for a while.

Sam Nicholas
Sam Nicholas

Thomas--I'm aware of the protections afforded poorly scoring teachers in this state. A poorly performing private sector worker gets fired, not so with teachers. They get rehabbed and put back in the classroom. The school systems need to use the system available to the fullest. The ombudsman program has been a waste of money and other states that have implemented this type of takeover policy haven't had stellar returns. I support good teachers....not the bad ones. Also...Deal is crooked. If he discloses any ties to ANY of the players he's proposing, I might reconsider my vote. This is supposed to be one of those "fiscally conservative Red states" yet it cuts funding to education for YEARS and then when there's failure, they want to take over these schools with some blank check from the taxpayers. No thanks. Keep it local.

Sam Nicholas
Sam Nicholas

Kent--Deflection never helps. Blame? Paying taxes so Deal can start stupid policies. He's coming to the end of his term and ALL OF THE SUDDEN he cares about EDUCATION. After ALL of the cuts along with PILLAGING Hope to shore up budgets....please! \U0001f644

Sidney Foster
Sidney Foster

Deal is screw up on this item. He invoking the career politician mentality

Buck Monterey
Buck Monterey

Bc plenty of failing schools are in his backyard

Robin L Peters
Robin L Peters

The game is over. American's now know democrats are liars, cheaters, criminals, terrorists, and thieves.

newsphile
newsphile

I don't always agree with Reed, but he's right about this one.  Furthermore, when OSD fails, you can't unring that bell.