Thursday, November 3, 2016

Gov. Deal's "dishonest" claims about his school deal

Jim Galloway, who writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's "Political Insider" column, recorded this that Gov. Nathan Deal told a group of educators two years ago:  My family has experienced when politics becomes a dominant factor in public education. . . .  My family actually had to move on one occasion, because of internal politics within a local school system.”   Galloway recently revisited this in his column and added that in 1942, before Nathan Deal was born, his father, as a teacher in Treutlin County, GA "ran afoul" with a powerful political family who "ran" the local school board" -- and Mr. Deal had to leave.  

They subsequently moved to Sandersville, where I had some knowledge of the Deal family and their son Nathan, who was about 10 years younger than I was.  Both Mr. and Mrs. Deal finished out their careers as teachers there, and I never heard of any troubles they had with the school board or administration.   My aunt was a teacher in the same school;  and, as far as I know, there no discord between the teachers and the local school board in Sandersville.

So we don't know what caused the trouble in Treutlin County, but Gov. Deal apparently thinks of this -- or at least he's using this personal experience, that occurred before he was born -- as justification for his seeming antipathy toward local school boards in the design of his Opportunity School District, which voters are asked to approve in constitutional amendment 1.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's columnist Jay Bookman has some strong words to say about this proposed amendment and the way Gov. Deal is pushing it, starting with the headline of his Wednesday AJC column:   "Gov. Deal selling his school plan through deception."  Some excerpts from Bookman's column:

"The calculated, cynical and brazen deception behind the effort to sell Georgia voters on Amendment 1, the so-called Opportunity School District proposal, is something to behold and to beware. . . .

"You can see that cynicism on the ballot, where the Amendment 1 preamble — largely written by Gov. Nathan Deal and his staffpromises that it will improve failing schools “through increasing community involvement.” You can see it echoed again in the pro-amendment television ads featuring Deal, where phrases such as 'Enhance local control' and 'Empower teachers and parents' are splashed prominently across the screen.

"Those phrases tell us a few things, but the truth is not one of them. They tell us that Deal and his allies have done polling, and the polling tells them that preserving local control of schools is important to Georgia voters. The polling also says that most Georgia voters believe that parents and teachers — the people with the most at stake in public education, and the most committed to its success — ought to have considerable influence. So proponents of Amendment 1 have built their marketing campaign around those popular themes.

"Yet that campaign is an obviousmagnificent lie. The primary purpose of Amendment 1, its complete reason for existence, is to wrest power away from parents, teachers and locally elected school officials. If approved by voters, it would give the governor the unchallengeable, unchecked power to seize control of local schools, including local tax money, and to put that power in the hands of a superintendent whom the governor appoints.

"The English language is remarkably flexible, but it cannot be twisted and tortured enough to claim that Amendment 1 will “enhance local control.” It clearly destroys local control. Amendment 1 and the legislation that accompanies it contains no mechanism for local control whatsoever, and no means for challenging the dictatorial powers it places in the hands of the governor. And it certainly doesn’t 'empower parents and teachers.'

". . . . Selling an approach like that under the banner of 'enhancing local control' is like advertising black coffee as a sleeping aid or cigarettes as a cure for asthma. It’s just astoundingly dishonest, and it explains why delegates to the Georgia Parents and Teachers Association voted 633-0 to oppose Amendment 1 . . . . They don’t feel empowered by it, they feel undermined. . . . 

"However, if Deal wanted to make an honest argument on behalf of his proposal, he would have to stare into the camera and explain to Georgia voters that somehow, he and his appointees would be so much better at running local schools than are parents, teachers and locally elected school board members. He would also have to explain what magical, school-transforming power resides in the governor’s office that would be unleashed by Amendment 1.

"By relying instead on lies, he tells me that no such power exists."

That is very strong, condemning language from Bookman -- and every word, I believe, is correct -- and damning.    Damning, not just of the amendment, but of Deal himself.  This is exactly why I've said I do not trust Nathan Deal.  This is typical of his whole approach.   Even when he has what seems like a good basic idea -- to improve schools and help children -- he can't take an open, honest approach.

He is a master at exploitation of government operations and loopholes;   he weaseled out of an ethics investigation of his campaign financing, when he was a member of Congress, by resigning early to run for governor.   That ended the investigation.    He engaged in some dirty campaign tactics which potentially endangered teenagers at the Youth Pride Center for LBGTQ kids, trying to smear his opponent for having made a contribution to this valuable community resource.  Why?  To exploit the homophobic vote.

Let's not let him get away with giving away control of our schools to private enterprise, which I truly believe is his ultimate goal.   At least there's a lot of out-of-state money of undisclosed source, funding his ad campaign.  Opposition money is coming from national associations of teachers.  There hasn't been much polling, but one about 10 days ago showed 59% of voters opposed it.

I do not disagree at all with the goal of improving Georgia schools.   I can't think of many things that I would rather support.   But this is not the way to go about it.   Why not do something like hire a cadre of community organizers and teacher-consultants to fan out over the state and work with local schools to energize parents and communities, help them plan for changes, and enhance local involvement.   And guess what?    Getting local communities involved in the schools would make citizens willing to pay more taxes to benefit their schools.  That's what works.    Deal's plan is the opposite of that, taking it out of the hands of local boards and parents -- despite what his deceptive, dishonest ads say.


PS:   Late Wednesday, Fox News reported from an October 3rd speech by Gov. Deal, where hs said:   "The irony of some of the groups who are opposing doing something to help these minority children is beyond my logic.  If you want to advance the state of colored people, start  with their children."

There is so much that's wrong and so tone deaf in those two sentences.   First, opposing this wrong-headed plan is not "opposing doing something to help these minority children."   We think there are better ways to help than following plans that have not worked in other states, that fail to address problems in ways that are known to help, that would turn our schools over to out-of-state, commercial enterprises.

Next, does the governor really equate failing schools only with "minority children?" If so, then maybe the problem isn't with the schools so much as it is with their living conditions at home.   For one small example:   maybe if the governor hadn't blocked the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, it would have helped.  And what of the blatant racism evident in his choice of words:   "colored people"?????    That condescending term harks back to the days of paternalism and separate-but-equal -- and suggests that Gov. Deal is stuck in that kind of thinking.   Yes, NAACP uses the term in their organization's name, but that is because it was founded in 1909, and it is proud of its history as an early attempt to combat racism.

I'm afraid the Gov. Deal's true colors are showing, as his pet project faces failure, and he becomes desperate.   The majority of Georgia voters may be more advanced in our racial understanding and attitudes than is our governor.

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