The factions opposing Gov. Nathan Deal’s school takeover plan took to the airwaves Tuesday with a 30-second TV spot claiming the cost of the constitutional amendment would be "huge" by robbing local districts of education funding.
The Committee to Keep Georgia Schools Local says it rounded up more than $730,000 for an ad buy this week that's mostly focused on the vote-rich Atlanta media market.
It is the first television spot to target the initiative, which would give the state the power to take control of persistently failing schools if approved by voters in November.
You can see the ad for yourself below:
"Instead of investing in smaller class sizes, good teachers, and more resources for learning, Amendment 1 cuts money from local schools to make us pay for a whole new set of bureaucrats and an unaccountable political appointee," intones a narrator.
The ad echoes the criticism from leading Democrats, education groups and other opponents of the Opportunity School District who say it would give control of local schools to an aloof entity that is not accountable to voters and can siphon off up to 3 percent of state, local and federal funds for a targeted school to cover administrative costs.
Deal casts the November vote on his constitutional amendment as a moral imperative that is needed to save thousands of students trapped in some of the state's lowest-performing schools.
The anti-referendum group - Keep Georgia Schools Local - includes the Georgia Association of Educators, the Georgia AFL-CIO, Better Georgia, the Concerned Black Clergy of Metro Atlanta and a half-dozen other organizations. It is chaired by Louis Elrod, a Georgia operative who is president of the Young Democrats of America.
They are also reinforced by some leading Democrats - though Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has steered clear of the fight - and at least 16 school boards that passed resolutions opposing the ballot initiative.
The governor, meanwhile, has said he and lawmakers have lost "patience in trusting" local school superintendents and boards of education to turn around the 127 schools eligible for state takeover, which he says has failed nearly 68,000 schoolchildren compelled by law to attend the schools.
“If you think that’s right," he said at an education conference last week, "then vote against the constitutional amendment.”
He has his own big-money campaign brewing. A pair of groups, Georgia Leads and Georgia Leads for Education, have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the referendum.
Tom Willis, a former Deal campaign manager who heads the governor's main push for the constitutional amendment, called the ad a "scare tactic."
"It's unfortunate to see these groups continue to ignore the facts about the OSD. Opponents of turning around failing schools make it clear they are committed to protecting the failing status quo by spending big bucks talking about power, money and bureaucracy. We, on the other hand, will campaign with a message that brings hope and opportunity to the tens of thousands of students trapped in chronically failing schools, and their parents left with no current alternatives."