Kyle Wingfield

Political commentary and opinion from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's conservative blogger

The Georgia educrat edition of 'Scary Movie'

Holidays seem to arrive earlier every year, don’t they? Thanks to the Georgia PTA, we now have Halloween in August. I just can’t tell if they’re going for “really scary” or “laughable caricature.”

I refer to the group’s video opposing the Opportunity School District , a proposed constitutional amendment that will appear on the November ballot. The measure would allow the state to make wholesale changes in perennially failing schools, such as converting them into charter schools.

The Georgia PTA finds this possibility scary. Frightening, even. Terrifying enough to warrant a horror film à la the original “Blair Witch Project,” with almost as much grounding in reality.

The video tries to spook viewers into thinking Gov. Nathan Deal and other state leaders are trying to cannibalize these schools and let rich donors feast on their remains. But Georgians expecting some evidence for these claims might as well sit up all night waiting for the Great Pumpkin.

There are a couple of ghost stories about “for-profit businesses tak(ing) full control of your school” and “your tax dollars (equaling) their profit.” In reality, Georgia law requires charter schools to be run by non-profit boards. Can those boards hire private companies to perform administrative and back-office functions? Sure — just as every traditional public school today spends at least some of its money with for-profit companies, from textbook publishers to janitorial services.

There’s an eerie moan about “economic segregation,” which is so vague as to mean anything. But it’s worth noting the schools subject to OSD takeover (because they’ve failed for at least three consecutive years) are already concentrated in poor communities, both urban and rural.

Next, we have a warning about “no accountability.” Seriously? Exactly what kind of accountability exists today for schools that have been producing more dropouts than graduates? For something truly scary, consider that many students in Atlanta, Macon, Savannah and elsewhere in Georgia will go several years, if not their entire k-12 careers, attending only failing schools. The mere specter of OSD has prompted some of those schools, though not all, to try something new .

If you weren’t afraid yet, the video ominously warns “your community is in danger.” From what? An attempt to stop the school-to-prison pipeline that actually has endangered many communities? Quite the opposite.

Above all, the video wants you to believe “they” — those formless boogeymen your high school teachers advised you not to invoke — “are misleading you again.” And despite all the competition for this title from the video, this claim might be the most hypocritical.

“Misleading” is precisely what opponents of education reform have been doing for years and years in this state. Remember the 2012 constitutional amendment to allow state charter schools? That was alleged to open the doors to “for-profit businesses” ravaging the state after an explosion of new school openings. Four years later, the re-authorized state commission still has approved only two dozen schools across all of Georgia — half of which predated the 2012 vote. No more than five have opened in a single year.

“They” are misleading you again, all right. But “they” are the educrats who deny that the status quo is what’s truly scary.

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About the Author

Kyle Wingfield joined the AJC in 2009. He is a native of Dalton and a graduate of the University of Georgia.