Election night in America was filled with unprecedented surprises, as millions of voters across the nation moved to elect Republican nominee Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States. Much more was at stake in this election for Georgia voters, however, as citizens were asked to decide whether the government should step in to repair underperforming schools across the state.
Voters made their voices heard Tuesday and voted a resounding “no” to Amendment 1 — a ballot measure that would authorize the state to create an Opportunity School District in charge of governing elementary and middle schools deemed to be “chronically failing.”
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, six out of 10 votes cast on Amendment 1 rejected the proposed constitutional amendment to allow a state takeover of the state’s worst performing schools. The measure drew strong opposition from both Democrats and Republicans who were unwilling to relinquish control of their children’s schools to the state government.
Championed by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal last year, the referendum passed in the General Assembly with overwhelming support from Republicans. He asserted that the state would work to improve underperformning schools — which local school boards and community leaders have failed to do in the past.
But critics of the proposal argued that such a takeover wouldn’t do much for chronically struggling schools with majority low-income and minority student populations. Georgians opposed the idea of Amendment 1 so much that they raised over $5 million in TV ads and other election costs to prevent the bill from being passed, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reports. Gov. Deal raised roughly the same amount to back the measure.
Not only would Amendment 1 relinquish school control to the state government, but would also take the federal, state and local tax dollars that support them. This left many Georgians worried that the proposal was more about power over schools rather than adopting new and effective teaching methods, raising more money for tutoring and other solutions that could possibly improve failing schools as a whole.
Per the AJC, passage of Amendment 1 would have allowed Gov. Deal to appoint a new school superintendent with full authority to select schools for takeover and decide what to do with them — like fire teachers without reason, close selected schools or turn them over to charter controllers.
T.C. Weber, a public school parent in Nashville who has seen the effects of an Opportunity School District first hand, warned that while the measure has good intentions, it can also have detrimental results.
“As a parent of two children who attend a school that sits right outside the periphery of the priority school list, I urge [Georgia voters to] reject this idea,” Weber wrote. “No matter what they try to tell you, the Achievement School District in Tennessee has been an unmitigated failure. The only thing the ASD has been successful at is creating another government entity rife with financial mismanagement and becoming an endless source of debate as they constantly change goals.”
Lisa-Marie Haygood, president of the Georgia PTA, expressed joy at Tuesday’s election results surrounding Amendment 1.
“We did it,” Haygood said, noting that an “unlikely coalition” of Black and white voters of all income levels had banded together to fight the constitutional amendment. “We all wanted to stop a bad law from taking effect.”