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Mayor Reed adds to school takeover opposition

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ATLANTA -- Mayor Kasim Reed has come out against a constitutional amendment that would let the state run failing public schools.

Only a few weeks ago, the Atlanta mayor said he was undecided on the constitutional amendment. Now he’s become a significant voice against it.

If passed, the failing schools amendment would let the state take over operations of local public schools like Young Middle School in Atlanta -- which for three years has had failing scores in a key state index. 

In a statement released late Wednesday, Reed said, in part: 

I oppose this proposal because I believe it will inevitably result in the diversion of public funds for public schools to private entities, with inadequate oversight, and without accountability to parents. I believe such a change in our state, through the permanent measure of a constitutional amendment, will weaken our public schools and create conditions where they become the last resort for desperate families, rather than a symbol of excellence and source of community pride.

(Read full statement below)

Gov. Nathan Deal has made passage of the amendment a priority – making personal appeals in advertising backing the measure. Mayor Reed has often crossed party lines to ally with Governor Deal.  But Reed says schoolteachers have been more persuasive on this.

"There is a genuine concern about the quality of education and on it weakening our public schools because it may take resources that were meant for public schools out of the system," Reed said Wednesday.  "So I’ve been listening to" teachers. 

But Gov. Deal is ramping up his support for the amendment – arguing now that it’s also a public safety as well as an educational issue.

"We are now trying to go back into our prison system and train inmates who are in their 20s and 30s and some even beyond that so they can get a high school diploma," Deal said Wednesday. "Somebody failed those people when they dropped out of school."

Reed's full statement: 

"Today, I am announcing my opposition to Amendment 1 on the November 8th ballot, which calls for a constitutional amendment to create a state-controlled school district in Georgia.

I oppose this proposal because I believe it will inevitably result in the diversion of public funds for public schools to private entities, with inadequate oversight, and without accountability to parents. I believe such a change in our state, through the permanent measure of a constitutional amendment, will weaken our public schools and create conditions where they become the last resort for desperate families, rather than a symbol of excellence and source of community pride.

I am a proud graduate of Fulton County schools. My brothers and I attended Utoy Springs Elementary and Westwood High School, now Westlake High. Our success demonstrates what is possible when children have access to strong public institutions. I want the same for all children in the City of Atlanta and across our great state.

Certainly, we must acknowledge that some of our state’s public school systems – including Atlanta Public Schools – face challenges. I understand the frustration among parents and community advocates with the slow pace of change.

I also appreciate the strong desire by proponents of this measure to take action now. But I disagree with the method.

I emphatically believe that the Georgia General Assembly is the right body to make changes to state education and school policy, through the legislative process.
When I served in the General Assembly, I had to make some tough choices, knowing I would need to defend my decisions to voters in my district. By asking voters to decide on a constitutional amendment, responsibility automatically shifts away from the legislators who are elected to address our needs.

A constitutional amendment is the wrong vehicle for reform in an area where so much uncertainty exists. By amending the constitution, the public will be restricted in its future ability to make the many adjustments a program like this will surely need. By creating a new bureaucracy accountable only to the executive branch, parents are disempowered and discouraged from being active and engaged in their local school system.
Ultimately, I cannot support any measure that weakens our public school system in this manner and threatens its future."

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