New class-action lawsuit: Opportunity School District ballot question misleading, deceptive

Nathan Deal did not get his Opportunity School District, but he may get a diluted version via the Legislature. (AJC photo)

A class-action lawsuit filed today goes after Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp over the language in the Amendment 1 “Opportunity School District” ballot question.

The three lead plaintiffs —  Atlanta parent Kimberly Brooks, Rev. Timothy McDonald and public school teacher Melissa Ladd — charge the language is “so misleading and deceptive that it violates the due process and voting rights of all Georgia voters.”

Proponents of state takeover called the lawsuit a stunt. “This is a last-minute media stunt engineered by outside special interest groups in order to generate publicity,” said Tom Willis, director of the Opportunity for All Georgia Students coalition. “This frivolous lawsuit demonstrates the depths to which some outside groups will go to defend the status quo. They are playing political games with the futures of 68,000 students trapped in failing schools. It’s unconscionable to hold these students hostage simply to generate news headlines.”

Among the contentions in the suit:

First, the language states that the constitutional amendment “increase[es] community involvement” when it does the opposite. Second, the language claims that impacted schools will be “fixed,” when there is no research, data or evidence that state takeovers of local public schools yields any better outcomes. Third, the language describes the targeted schools as “failing” while many of them have made as much or more progress on state school assessments as traditionally high performing schools. Accordingly, the ballot language by which the Proposed Amendment will be presented to the Georgia electorate deprives voters of their due process right to an effective vote in violation of the Georgia Constitution.

All Georgia voters are entitled to have only those proposed amendments that comply with the Constitution presented on the ballot and also to have such amendments presented in a manner that complies with the Constitution. Accordingly, this lawsuit addresses matters that both directly affect them as voters and that also affect purely public rights, common to all voters in this state, and seeks to enforce the performance of a purely public duty, i.e., to have the Secretary of State place on the ballot only language regarding those proposed amendments that complies with the requirements of the Georgia Constitution. Plaintiffs thus seek to have this Court enter judgment declaring that the Proposed Amendment violates the Georgia Constitution and the ballot language regarding the amendment is so misleading and deceptive that it violates the due process and voting rights of all Georgia voters and enjoining enforcement if passed.

Here is the press release on the suit:

Today, a class action lawsuit alleging that the Amendment 1 “Opportunity School District” ballot language violates the Georgia Constitution was filed in Fulton County Superior Court against Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Sec. of State Brian Kemp.

The complaint, filed on behalf of all Georgia voters, charges that the school takeover amendment language “is misleading, subjectively worded and propagandizes the very issue being decided on the ballot.”

The three lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit are outspoken about their reasons for filing suit.

“You have to ask, ‘opportunity for whom?’ If you read the fine print, you’ll see this is an opportunity for the state to take our voices away,” said Kimberly Brooks of Atlanta, a parent of three children who have attended metro Atlanta schools in a district affected by the proposed Amendment.

Rev. Timothy McDonald, III, Senior Pastor at First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta, added, “We as parents and teachers and neighbors know what’s best for our communities, not some unaccountable political appointee.”

“Public schools that serve all children in the surrounding community are the foundation of democracy. Taking away local control and silencing parents’ voices is contradictory to democratic principles,” said Dr. Melissa Ladd of Coweta County, a public school teacher and lifelong political conservative who recently became the first Georgia teacher to be named a finalist for the Horace Mann Teaching Award.

The plaintiffs argue that the ballot language is intentionally deceptive — Amendment 1 will not “increase community involvement,” it will not “fix” failing schools and the Amendment will not provide “greater flexibility” compared to current public school models. The “fatally flawed” wording would therefore deprive Georgia voters of their due process right to an effective vote as guaranteed by the Georgia Constitution.

The lawsuit comes after many Georgia parents, teachers and other members of the Keep Georgia Schools Local Coalition have publicly criticized the ballot language. Georgia PTA president Lisa-Marie Haygood told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “the preamble, and indeed, the entire amendment question, is intentionally misleading and disguises the true intentions of the OSD legislation.”

 

Reader Comments 0

42 comments
jezel
jezel

Competition in the market place creates better products for less money. A factory mentality is not appropriate in the PROCESS  of education.


Public education was never meant to be subjected to the market forces. The design was to insulate students from those very pressures....as they mature and develop. Students are not products,  learning is a life long endeavor...and excessive testing undermines and contaminates the whole process.


I am so disturbed over this " reform " sponsored by the American Legislative Executive Council because a college educated person should be able to grasp this concept. Yet our leaders yield to this assault. Do they have no heart... or is it conscience ?

dg417s
dg417s

I've got a question specifically aimed at Astro.... You've said on more than one occasion that since the GOP won the election, they can write whatever ballot language they want as a spoil of war. I know you'll never change your mind. So, if you can answer a question straight forward without the propaganda that you usually talk about here.... why are you opposed to using the language Senator Fort proposed that basically outlines SB133 (the actual OSD law).... again, can you really answer other than we won, we get to author the language?

Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow an appointee of the Governor to take over local school operation, buildings, and control of all federal, state, and local funding if a school has low scores on standardized tests or for any other reason a future legislature may allow?

Astropig
Astropig

@dg417s


The governor and legislature were elected in a fair series of elections over the last however many years.That means that they (generally) represent the will and mood of the voters.The voters can un-elect them every two years (house),six years(individual senators) and four years (governor).The majority of voters want the people that are in office at this moment.That means that if these people use their offices to rule the state against  will of the people,then we may as not even have elections.


You educrats are a small,vocal,self interested minority that cannot win at the ballot box.The public despises you.For our elected officials to do what you specifically want would be a tyranny by a tiny minority of political satraps and special interests.I know that in your cocoon,you won't grasp my points here,but that's the way I feel.


In short, if you don't like being a small,noisy minority,do what the Republicans did a couple of decades ago-stop listening mainly to yourselves and run some candidates that represent a cross section of the public instead of your bigoted "edu-centric" little clique.


I hope that's clear enough for you.This site doesn't let us make crayon drawings to illustrate our points.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

You know, I think it is time to respond to the bloggers who repeatedly, to every question, assert that we need to try something new (even if it has failed where it has been tried)because what we have been doing doesn't work.  They are right!


Here is what Governors Perdue and Deal and the legislature has done in the last decade plus:


Refused to allot the money state law says the schools are to have (QBE) by Billions (with a B)


Reduced the role of state superintendent from leader to rubber stamp


Piled increasing expectations on these underfunded schools


Mandated tests and "evaluations" that lack validity and reliability


Responded to the needs of increasing numbers of poor students from poor families by saying, "So what?" in part by refusing to expand Medicaid or provide auxiliary services


Failed to listen to educators about the needs of their students, preferring to listen to such "experts" as Michelle Rhee


Taken every single opportunity to disparage and dismiss teacher efforts


Given financial support through taxes to private schools.


AND THEY ARE RIGHT:  THIS HASN'T WORKED!



BKWK
BKWK

Absolutely spot on!

Astropig
Astropig

I'm willing to bet that the unions did a poll,found out that this was going to pass pretty handily and this little gambit is a Hail-Mary desperation ploy to thwart what the voters want.The left does this on a pretty regular basis (note that the lawsuit was filed in Fulton County) and it's part of the Soros/Union axis playbook.No real surprise here.


There will be a lot of (metaphorical) blood on the floor after this battle is complete.The educrats are poisoning the well pretty badly for the next session of the legislature and the 2018 election for governor.

Astropig
Astropig

@hoopcoch @Astropig


You must have been a pretty poor teacher if you can't comprehend basic things.I didn't say Georgia has teachers unions.I said that unions funded a poll and didn't like what they saw.It's a fact reported in this very newspaper that the AFL-CIO is the corrupt union money behind this campaign.Educate your own self.


You can take your phony moralizing and stick it in your assignment book.I swear, you people manage the impossible-you get more radical every day.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Astropig @hoopcoch What is the plan besides taking money from black people and giving it to white people?


You have had weeks to describe the wonderful OSD you support and still nothing. Waiting..........

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Astropig @AvgGeorgian @hoopcoch

Some other promoter - Delk, Cuppa, Bleach Bit,-WHAT IS THE PLAN? (Besides take money from black workers and give it to politically connected white people and out of stae corporations).

hoopcoch
hoopcoch

@Astropig Astropig, you are uninformed as are many undereducated voters in Georgia (my home state for 62 years)-----we have NO teacher UNIONS in Georgia....never have in my lifetime. I have no children or grand-children in public schools, but I know that an APPOINTED Czar who has NO accountability to any taxpayer in Georgia is NOT conservative. THAT is more like an OBAMA plan. GAE/PAGE/MACE are all teacher professional organizations---that is a much different body than a union. Educate yourself.


Tom Green
Tom Green

Irony is when three Georgia residents (one a parent and one a teacher) are called "outside forces" by a group that is clearly supported by an out-of-state, for-profit group that uses deceptive ballot language.

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

This is great news!

As for “Proponents of state takeover called the lawsuit a stunt,” well, what’s that adage about what a dog will do when hit?

Oh, yea.  Holler.

So holler on, you state takeover of public schools proponents.  As you have demonstrated on this blog time and time again, any reasoned response to your extremely fanatical state takeover ideology just isn’t worth the bother.  And, of course, you have no mirrors.

And remember, you also have time and time again touted competition as the way to get the best outcomes.  So face the competition now coming your way.  Hollering isn’t a particularly rational response to your competition.  On second, for you, maybe it is.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

The OSD has been tried in GA and has failed. It is called the State Charter Commision school system and it is run by political appointees. Its schools are mostly failing or close to it and the Governor has no idea how to improve them.


They took all reporting of spending off the internet to hide it from taxpayers. 


That is the model for the OSD-a political money grab with no academic plan and secret spending of taxpayer money. 


cuppa
cuppa

Class-action lawsuit? More teachers' union (and George Soros?) money at work, no doubt. 

And a fresh excuse for the anti-reform bunch to make laughable claims against this education reform.

Astropig
Astropig

@cuppa



The people filing this lawsuit basically want an unelected judge (or they,themselves) to assume the power to write the ballot language now and forthwith regarding any constitutional questions.I wouldn't be terribly surprised if some judge presumed to do that,but I can't imagine their power grab standing up to any serious scrutiny by a higher court.


I think the people filing this know this,but this is a way to get some free publicity that they couldn't afford to buy (because the unions behind this won't spend more money on it).It's a way to break through the election year clutter and get people talking about this.

hoopcoch
hoopcoch

@cuppa Cuppa, you are like Astropig.....UNINFORMED.....there are NO teacher UNIONS in Georgia. Research and educate yourself....there are teacher organizations, but they are NOT unions....much different bodies.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@cuppa What reform? Please give the Governor's plan that would reform these schools.


Oh, maybe you mean reform the financial flow of money from local black citizen employees to the white politicians white friends and business owners.

Tim Langan
Tim Langan

If the Governor thought his idea was a good one that he could sell to the public, he would have just described it accurately. It is terribly misleading.

Astropig
Astropig

They're gonna have a hard time winning this one.The constitution of Georgia lays out pretty specifically what the legislatures' powers are in regard to ballot questions.As long as the amendment doesn't conflict with U.S. law (hard to see how it can when education is left to the states in the federal constitution),any judge would run into a "separation of powers" tangle if they tried to strike it from the ballot.


The governor and the legislature did this one by the book, by the numbers.I'm pretty sure that the governor,secretary of state and the legislature would swiftly appeal any adverse ruling.


This is precisely why the governor shouldn't/doesn't use that law that the zealots always cite when they prattle on about how he already has this power.That law would be struck down pretty quick by an activist judge.Conversely,the state could use that law as an argument that the state can assume this power constitutionally because it already exists as code and has not been struck down in a court.



Astropig
Astropig

@AJCkrtk @Astropig


" the lawsuit simply seems to say that the proponents of the bill have to offer voters a straightforward, non-misleading description of what the amendment would do.  If the bill offers a real solution, it should be accurately described so voters can decide for themselves.  Transparency would seem to dictate an honest preamble and question. "


The court doesn't have the power to decide what is "misleading",only whether the question is constitutional (does it conflict with other provisions in the constitution)."Misleading" is such a broad term that  any amendment could be labeled as such,given what the opponents want to have happen.



I agree with Mr. Willis here, this is a stunt. Note that it was filed in Fulton County,where the plaintiffs assume that they will get a favorable ruling from an activist judge.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Astropig @AvgGeorgian @newsphile @AJCkrtk


Again, is that your answer to  "What is the plan for the OSD?"


Funny not one of you OSD promoter/profiteers can come up with even the slightest outline of an academic improvement plan except to take the schools and money away from black communities and black workers and give them to the right,white people.

AJCkrtk
AJCkrtk

@Astropig Actually the current law gives the Georgia DOE authority to intervene in schools, NOT the Governor. This is a power grab by the Governor.

And as I read the description of the lawsuit, it doesn't appear to be about that issue -- the lawsuit simply seems to say that the proponents of the bill have to offer voters a straightforward, non-misleading description of what the amendment would do.  If the bill offers a real solution, it should be accurately described so voters can decide for themselves.  Transparency would seem to dictate an honest preamble and question.  This preamble and question is deceptive and misleading.  (Just as the Governor planned).

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@Astropig You get the convoluted distortion of logic award for that one. You are hilarious in your defense of the OSD. You must really stand to lose a lot of money if it fails, or maybe you are firm in your beliefs like the trumpster who said it was suspicious that Obama wasn't in the Oval Office during the 911 attack.

redweather
redweather

@AJCkrtk @Astropig Unfortunately, Georgia has a fairly long history of misleading constitutional amendment language. 

Jamesr1991
Jamesr1991

Not to mention the OSD will make those connected with the take over a whole lot of money while pretending to serve the community. LMFAO