Archives for category: Georgia

The state of Georgia will allow people to get a tax break by claiming a fetus as a dependent.

If that is the case, then a pregnant woman should be allowed to drive in the HOV lane because she has a passenger in her womb.

What other privileges can the state award to fetuses now that they are full-fledged people six weeks after conception?

Maureen Downey of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution posted a guest column by two university scholars in Georgia, warning about the dangerous legislation now under consideration.

T. Jameson Brewer is an assistant professor of social foundations of education at the University of North Georgia. Brandon Haas is an associate professor of social foundations and leadership education at the University of North Georgia.

Brewer and Haas write:

At present, several bills in the state Legislature — including House Bill 1084 and Senate Bill 377 — weaponize grievance politics in the culture wars during a Georgia election year. These bills are our state’s iteration of “anti-critical race theory” proposals across the nation.

In Florida, lawmakers are seeking to make it illegal for white students to feel discomfort. In Oklahoma, a recent proposed bill would allow parents to sue teachers for $10,000 per day if they discuss any topic that does not perfectly align with a student’s closely held religious belief.

The House and Senate bills here in Georgia do not mention critical race theory by name. But they are part of this growing ideological trendto manufacture and capitalize on outrage as it relates to what students are taught or not taught in schools — the front line, as it were, of the nation’s culture war.

While there have long been efforts from the political right to censor curriculum and ban books in U.S. schools, these efforts have reached a fever pitch over the past two years. First, parents shouted at local school boards to ignore medical science and reopen schools as well as remove mask mandates during the height of the pandemic. Then, concerns over the teaching of CRT began to spring up across the country.

The simmering perception that K-12 schools and universities are engaged in teaching students to hate the United States or themselves was captured in the Trump administration’s 1776 Report. That report, not penned by historians, is full of inaccuracies in its attempt to promote fascist-like indoctrination that the United States is without historical or contemporary issues. Among many concerns, the 1776 Report attempts to suggest that George Washington freed his slaves and, thus, the United States does not have a legacy of racial oppression. Those with an accurate understanding of history know Martha Washington freed one of approximately 123 slaves.

Recently, the Heritage Action group tweeted about “uncovering” the teaching of CRT in Gwinnett County Public Schools despite K-12 districts suggesting that they do not teach CRT. Yet, this tweet was not the “gotcha” that Heritage may think it was for a few reasons: (1) The course in question was an Advanced Placement language and research course (that is, a college-level course), (2) students learn myriad frameworks for examining and critiquing issues, and (3) this type of critical thinking is precisely what we should want education to teach our students. All of that said, Superintendent Calvin Watts, noted that the syllabus in question was never used in classes. A district spokeswoman said it was a sample syllabus submitted to the organization that provides AP curriculum.

Georgia’s proposed bills seek to establish that racial injustice is an artifact of the past that no longer exists. They state that educators cannot suggest that the United States or Georgia is fundamentally biased based on race. Yet, any examination will clearly show that racial bias was a fundamental component of our legal, social, and educational system — from slavery to Jim Crow to mass incarcerations. The question, then, is whether or not these inequalities still persist. For this, students need to develop the ability to examine, evaluate and critique myriad forms of data and generate their own fact-based conclusion.

While part of any learning process is extending beyond our comfort zones, that discomfort is not what is at stake with these bills in Georgia, Florida and a dozen other states. It is uncomfortable to admit that white schools receive so much more in funding than nonwhite schools. Admitting this reality begs action. If we claim that the U.S. affords all children with a level playing field, the receipts showing that the field is structurally uneven suggests that we either forfeit the claim of equality or seek to remedy the inequality…

The larger problem created by SB 226 is that it creates a slippery slope of giving power to those who lack training in curriculum, instruction, and library media. This trend should alarm anyone who does not fancy a Nazi Germany-style authoritarian government over a democratic republic. In fact, one of the initial steps taken in Nazi Germany was banning of books, control of school curriculum and requirements of “loyalty oaths” and coerced patriotism as we are seeing in a variety of proposed laws across the country.

The United States has a checkered past that is troubling for all citizens. This is known as difficult history and provides students with an opportunity to understand how the past shapes the present so that they can be thoughtful and effective citizens. As novelist and essayist James Baldwin said, “I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

Will Georgia codify lying to students? Will we ban or burn books? While the next political outrage may find another arena to target and destroy for political gain, there are real harmful implications of the one currently targeting schools and books in an effort to satiate the public’s broad ignorance about buzzwords such as critical race theory. These bills are not anti-CRT, whatever that may mean. They are explicitly anti-education.

Georgia educator Anthony Downer announced a call for sponsors for a rally on July 23.

Hi y’all,

As we gather and reflect on this complicated holiday weekend, I think about how my students are processing their world. Like many of you, I’m motivated by my ancestors’ struggles. I wonder how we’re preparing our young scholar-leaders to fight for equality and liberty, for equity and liberation. The recent education laws in Georgia hinder educators like me from doing just this. So we must continue to organize.

Georgia Educators for Equity and Justice and other education organizations are planning a Rally for Education (name TBA) on Saturday 7/23 at a school in metro Atlanta (location and time TBA). The goal is to highlight the voices of educators as we prepare for the implementation of new education laws during the 2022-2023 school year. Educators from across the state will speak to the negative effects of these laws on our schools and scholars. As we know, while politicians limited public comment and signed into law their draconian restrictions on education, educators were performing their primary duties. Now that we have more time, we have more to say. See below the initial details.

When? Saturday 7/23, time TBA – Please complete this form to share your opinions.

Where? At a school, ground-zero for the implementation and impact of the new education laws

Who? Everyone who opposes the attacks on public education in Georgia – This is an opportunity for our communities to rally to protect educators and students’ education. If you are an educator who is interested in speaking OR would like to sponsor the rally, please complete this form.

We will meet on Wednesday, July 13 at 4 PM. More details about this meeting and the event to follow over the next week. As we continue planning, we are eager to include as many voices and encourage as much participation as possible. This rally belongs to all of us. Once again, if you plan on attending, want to speak, want to sponsor, or have some ideas and opinions, please complete this form. Spread the word to your comrades and communities and we will follow up with additional details. Onward!

Best,

Anthony Downer

Voters are not buying the phony claims of the candidates running on platforms against “critical race theory,” not even in conservative counties in Georgia. Thanks to Jennifer Berkshire for this story.

The Georgia Recorder reports on two elections:

Voters in Cherokee and Coweta counties rejected three school board candidates backed by a right-wing federal PAC Tuesday, following similar losses in last month’s primary.

It’s uncommon for political action committees to weigh in on local races, so voters were surprised to open up their mailboxes and find flyers from the 1776 Project PAC endorsing a slate of candidates ahead of the primary.

The PAC is a response to the 1619 Project, a New York Times initiative examining the lingering effects of slavery throughout U.S. history.

The 1619 Project; critical race theory; diversity, equity and inclusion and social and emotional learning have become rallying points for white, conservative parents who say their children are being made to feel guilty for racial injustice.

On its website, the committee describes itself as “dedicated to electing school board members nationwide who want to reform our public education system by promoting patriotism and pride in American history. We are committed to abolishing critical race theory and ‘The 1619 Project’ from the public school curriculum.”

Among the PAC’s endorsees were Cherokee County’s Sean Kaufman, a small business owner, and Ray Lynch, a physician.

Cherokee

The two previously teamed up with fellow 1776 Project endorsees Cam Waters, who works for the Georgia Association of Health Underwriters, and accountant Chris Gregory, styling themselves as 4CanDoMore, a slate for parents who “have been silenced, ignored and belittled.”

“With 4CanDoMore we can have a board majority that asks questions, a board that is transparent and unafraid, a board that reflects the family values of Cherokee County,” reads a statement on their website.

Their goal was to create a majority on the seven-member board to prevent policies they view as divisive, especially critical race theory and diversity, equity and inclusion programs.

The district had plans to hire Cecelia Lewis, a Black principal from Maryland to serve as its first diversity, equity and inclusion administrator, but she decided not to take the offer after watching a raucous meeting in which parents railed against her hiring.

The 4CanDoMore team offered Lewis’ planned hiring as evidence that the board did not consider the desires of parents.

Lewis has said she did not know what critical race theory was at the time and had no plans to incorporate it in her role. Cherokee County has never included the concept, which is typically reserved for higher-education graduate studies, in its curriculum, but the school board approved a resolution to ban it anyway. The state school board went on to impose its own ban on lessons teaching that the United States is racist, and Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill into law further banning “divisive concepts” regarding racial history. Teachers and administrators have largely said such measures were unnecessary.

Cherokee is a conservative county — nearly 70% of voters there chose Donald Trump in 2020, but their rejection of the 4CanDoMore squad suggests local issues can still trump national culture war arguments, said Jamie Chambers, a writer and Cherokee County resident who opposed the four candidates.

“In my area, Ray Lynch was running against Susan Padget-Harrison, and unlike him, where he came from out of state and was just kind of attacking, she has experience. She has been a teacher. She’s been involved with our school system for decades and has ties to our community,” he said. “And I think, ultimately, that’s the thing that carried the day with voters, people who were connected, that were actually talking about real issues within our schools and not just repeating talking points that don’t apply to us. While we live in a very conservative area, I don’t think that the kind of people who were protesting the hiring of Lewis, who were banging on the windows and doors of the superintendent’s office, those aren’t representative of the voters around here.”

Kaufman lost to Erin Ragsdale, a businesswoman and educator, and Lynch was defeated by Padgett-Harrison, a professor of education at Piedmont College.

In last month’s primary, Waters and Gregory were both defeated by incumbent board members by significant margins.

Coweta

In Coweta, incumbent school board member Linda Menk was ousted by baseball coach Rob DuBose, who received nearly 80% of the vote in the runoff.

Menk received calls for her resignation after she attended the Jan. 6, 2021 rally in Washington that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Critics also offered a list of insensitive and conspiratorial social media posts as evidence of her unfitness.

She also raised hackles on the board in 2019 for contacting the FBI, allegedly in an attempt to set up colleagues in a non-existent bid-rigging scandal.

Menk said she did not breach the Capitol and was simply expressing her First Amendment right to protest.

She offered no apologies in a school board meeting days after the riot.

“It was not sedition, it was not insurrection,” she said. “I attended a very peaceful rally, one of the most meaningful things that I actually had the privilege of engaging in was a large percentage of the attendees were there who had escaped communist China and had emigrated to this country, and the stories that they told me, basically, the United States was the last hope, it was the last place that they had to go.”

At the same meeting, then-board chair Amy Dees castigated Menk for distracting from the job of supporting students.

“We do have First Amendment rights as board members, but as an elected official, there are consequences for what we post and say,” she said. “Tonight, three board members took an oath of office. That oath of office means something, it means something to me. I uphold that with the utmost of integrity. It saddens me that we are here again and again and again, and it seems to me, Miss Menk, that you’re in the center of that.”

Other Coweta candidates endorsed by the 1776 Project PAC, Maxwell Britton, Megan Smith and Cory Gambardella, fell to board incumbents in the May primary.

ProPublica wrote about a campaign to destroy the reputation of a black educator and their pursuit of her to another district. The white agitators accused her of being an advocate of “critical race theory,” but she didn’t know what it was. That didn’t deter the vigilantes.

In April of 2021, Cecelia Lewis had just returned to Maryland from a house-hunting trip in Georgia when she received the first red flag about her new job.

The trip itself had gone well. Lewis and her husband had settled on a rental home in Woodstock, a small city with a charming downtown and a regular presence on best places to live lists. It was a short drive to her soon-to-be office at the Cherokee County School District and less than a half hour to her husband’s new corporate assignment. While the north Georgia county was new to the couple, the Atlanta area was not. They’d visited several times in recent years to see their son, who attended Georgia Tech.

Lewis, a middle school principal, initially applied for a position that would bring her closer to the classroom as a coach for teachers. But district leaders were so impressed by her interview that they encouraged her to apply instead for a new opening they’d created: their first administrator focused on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives…

At first, the scope of the role gave Lewis pause. In her current district, these responsibilities were split among several people, and she’d never held a position dedicated to anything as specific as that before. But she had served on the District Equity Leadership Team in her Maryland county and felt prepared for this new challenge. She believed the job would allow her, as she put it, to analyze the district’s “systemic and instructional practices” in order to better support “the whole child.”

“We’re so excited to add Cecelia to the CCSD family,” Superintendent Brian Hightower said in the district’s March 2021 announcement about all of its new hires. (The announcement noted that the creation of the DEI administrator role “stems from input from parents, employees and students of color who are serving on Dr. Hightower’s ad hoc committees formed this school year to focus on the topic.”) Hightower acknowledged “both her impressive credentials and enthusiasm for the role” and pointed out that, “In four days, she had a DEI action plan for us.”

But then a group of white parents decided that Lewis planned to bring “critical race theory” to their district. And they decided to hound her out of her job and out of Georgia.

The Georgia State Senate decisively rejected voucher legislation, by a vote of 29-20.

The Georgia Senate on Tuesday again rejected private school voucher legislation that would have offered annual subsidies to students who switched from public schools.

Senate Bill 601 failed 20-29 — an even wider margin than the rejection of a similar bill in 2019.

The new bill would have set aside $6,000 per year toward the private education of students who leave public school. The money, which would no longer have gone to the public school, could have been used to offset the student’s private school tuition or pay for associated private or home-school costs, such as fees, tutoring, curriculum, therapy, transportation or a computer.

“This is an opportunity for us to give students that are trapped in school systems that are underperforming an opportunity to move forward,” Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, said while presenting his bill on the Senate floor.

He introduced it despite House Speaker David Ralston’s announcement last month that he was blocking two similar House voucher bills. The Blue Ridge Republican was angered by a national voucher advocacy group that bombarded conservative voters with political mailers likening Republicans to liberals if they didn’t support the measures.

Georgia currently has a tax credit voucher program. House Republicans wanted to double the funding for this program to $200 million, but the Senate blocked that measure.

The Georgia branch of Betsy DeVos’ American Federation for Children made a mass mailing to voters in Republican districts urging them to fight against the “radical left” agenda of President Biden, Kamala Harris, and Stacey Abrams, which denies school choice.

It backfired.

A national advocacy group promoting school vouchers bombarded conservative Georgia voters with glossy mailers tying Republican state legislators from their districts to Stacey Abrams and other “radical left” figures. It backfired in spectacular fashion.

Just days after the American Federation for Children financed the mailers in at least 16 Republican-controlled legislative districts, House Speaker David Ralston told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the voucher proposal the group sought to pass is dead for the year.

“I am livid. I’ve been around politics for a long time, but this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen in my career, and one of the most deceitful,” Ralston said. “These are people we have tried to help over the years, and they turned to attack us very viciously.”

Ralston added: “That voucher legislation will not move at all in the Georgia House of Representatives this year, period.”

The mailers were sent by the Washington-based group to back proposals that would give public school students what it calls “Promise Scholarships,” a state subsidy of about $6,000 a year to help cover private school tuition.

The measures had gained early traction in House committees…

The aggressive strategy was meant to pressure legislators to end a yearslong feud over public funding of private education in Georgia. Instead, the Capitol’s halls buzzed Tuesday with incredulous GOP lawmakers infuriated by the group’s approach.

“It’s very disappointing that this group is targeting lawmakers in the middle of the deliberative process,” said state Rep.

Tomorrow at 9 a.m., the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP, the Southern Center for Human Rights, and the Abolitionist Teaching Netwotk will host a press conference at the Fulton County Courthouse. They will be asking the judge and district attorney not to send nonviolent educators to prison during the middle of a pandemic.

Shani Robinson contacted me this morning to ask if I would be willing to send a statement of support. I read Shani’s book None of the Above: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Public Schools Cheating Scandal, Corporate Greed, and the Criminalization of Educators and was convinced that Shani was unjustly prosecuted and convicted. Investigators pressured her and others to confess or to name others. She maintained her innocence. As a first grade teacher, she was not eligible for a bonus based on student scores. She was convicted by a racist judge who had the temerity to claim that the cheating scandal was “the sickest thing that’s ever happened to this town.” Not slavery. Not murder. Not Jim Crow.

I wrote the following letter. If you read the book and are as outraged as I am by the prosecution and conviction of Shani Robinson, please send a letter of support for Shani today. You may also contact elected officials on her behalf.

Here is my letter:

A Letter to the Judge and the District Attorney:
Honorable Officers of the Court and the Law in Fulton County:

I am a recently retired Professor at New York University and a historian of American education.
I am writing to urge you not to imprison Shani Robinson and other nonviolent educators.

I have read Shani’s book, which persuaded me that the state wrongly used RICO statutes to prosecute educators accused of changing student answers on standardized tests. Cheating of this kind has been documented in many school districts, and no other district has invoked a federal racketeering statute to prosecute teachers. The usual punishment is termination.

Shani taught first grade, where the tests have no stakes for students or teachers. She had no motive or reason to cheat.

I believe she was unjustly prosecuted by overzealous investigators. She could have pleaded guilty or accused others to avoid prosecution but she insisted on her innocence.

I believe her.

I believe her prosecutors wrongly pursued her, using tactics that were intended to coerce false convictions. Her conviction was unfair and racist.

I urge you not to send her to prison in the midst of a pandemic. Not now, and not ever.

I urge you to reopen and review her case.

I believe in Shani Robinson’s innocence.


Diane Ravitch, Ph.D.

A few years ago, I reviewed Shani Robinson’s book “None of the Above,” about the Atlanta cheating scandal. Teachers were charged as racketeers for allegedly changing answers from wrong to right. When questioned by investigators, they were offered immunity if they confessed or accused someone else. Shani pleaded innocent and accused no one. She was sentenced to prison, although there was no evidence against her other than an accusation. She was a first-grade teacher whose student scores did not affect the city’s ratings, nor was she eligible for a bonus. She has appealed and is waiting, years later, to learn whether she will be sent to prison.

Valerie Strauss posted this story and wrote the introduction.

Back in 2015, an Atlanta jury convicted 11 teachers of racketeering and other crimes for cheating on student standardized tests, one of many such scandals reported in those years in most states and the District of Columbia. The fallout continues.

The key difference between all the other scandals and the one in Atlanta: Prosecutors used a law ordinarily used to prosecute mobsters — the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO — to go after those they deemed guilty.

A grand jury in 2013 indicted Beverly Hall, the now-deceased superintendent, who was accused of running a “corrupt” organization that used test scores to financially reward and punish teachers. Thirty-four teachers, principals and others were also charged. All but one of the charged was Black. Many pleaded guilty. Twelve went to trial; one was acquitted of all charges and the 11 others were convicted of racketeering and a variety of other charges.

The cheating scandals — including some broad-based ones in the District of Columbia over several years — came during a time when standardized test scores had become the chief metric to evaluate teachers, principals, schools and districts because of federal policy during the Bush and then the Obama administrations. Teachers’ jobs were on the line if student test scores didn’t improve (despite questions about whether the tests really showed improvement in student achievement).

In Georgia, the prosecutions were pushed by two Republican governors, one of whom, Sonny Perdue, used the test scores that resulted from cheating to win federal funding in President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top school reform initiative.

This post looks at the current state of things in this scandal. It was written by Anna Simonton, who is a journalist for the Appeal, a worker-led nonprofit newsroom covering the U.S. criminal legal system. She is the co-author with Shani Robinson of “None of The Above: The Untold Story of the Atlanta Public Schools Cheating Scandal, Corporate Greed, and the Criminalization of Educators.” Simonton says she is a proud graduate of Atlanta public schools.

Robinson is one of the teachers who was indicted and who maintains her innocence. “None of the Above” is revelatory about how the prosecutions were handled — the news media virtually ignored the many times the case was nearly dismissed as well as clear examples of prosecutorial misconduct. The judge in the case called the cheating scandal “the sickest thing that’s ever happened to this town,” never mind slavery, Jim Crow laws and their continuing effects, the dismantling of public housing, etc.

Here’s Simonton’s piece.

By Anna Simonton

Teachers have faced unprecedented burdens during the coronavirus pandemic — the risks of teaching in person, the challenges of online schooling, and the furor over critical race theory. Now another threat looms on the horizon for a group of former educators in Atlanta: prison.
The Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal rose to national attention in 2015 when 11 Black educators were convicted of racketeering and conspiracy for allegedly cheating or enabling cheating on students’ standardized tests. The reaction from many corners was outrage.
Commentators asserted that charging teachers with RICO — a federal statute which was originally designed to prosecute mobsters — was overreaching and harsh, that Black educators were scapegoated for a widespread problem, and that sending them to prison wouldn’t solve the systemic failures that led to cheating.

Eventually, the news cycle moved on, and the case was largely forgotten outside of Atlanta. But it’s far from over.

Seven educators who maintain their innocence are still appealing their convictions in a process that has moved at a glacial pace. Last month brought the first major development in several years: Former principal Dana Evans had her appeal rejected by the Georgia Supreme Court on Jan. 11. Evans will soon be incarcerated for one year, followed by probation, unless the trial judge agrees to modify her sentence.
Retired Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter has the power to resentence these educators to time served or any number of alternatives to prison. Now local education advocates are petitioning Baxter, District Attorney Fani Willis, and other elected officials to bring a just resolution to a case that legal experts have called “a textbook example of overcriminalization and prosecutorial discretion run amok.”

It all began in 2010, when then-Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) launched a state investigation into Atlanta Public Schools because he wasn’t satisfied with the district’s internal probe into a suspiciously high number of wrong-to-right erasures on standardized tests.

The problem was widespread — 20 percent of Georgia’s elementary and middle schools were flagged in a 2009 erasure analysis — but Atlanta became the focal point. Less than a week after launching the investigation, Perdue announced the state won a $400 million federal Race to the Top grant for school reform from the Obama administration. What he didn’t mention was that the grant application touted those same test scores, attributing the rise to “higher standards and harder assessments.”

Meanwhile, agents from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents interrogated teachers without lawyers present, trading immunity for confessions and accusations against fellow educators. The result was a dragnet that hooked innocent people along with those who cheated. When the investigation concluded by implicating 178 educators in cheating, it was up to the local district attorney at the time, Paul Howard, to bring charges.

At that point, cheating had become commonplace in school districts across the country, due in part to federal laws like No Child Left Behind, which punished schools that didn’t increase test scores each year. In most places, the consequences for cheating amounted to suspended or revoked professional licenses, fines, and community service. When Howard indicted 35 educators (who were almost all Black and all people of color) on RICO charges in 2013, it sent shock waves through the city.

Howard stretched the bounds of RICO — which concerns crimes committed for financial gain — to allege that educators conspired to cheat to receive bonus money awarded to schools that scored well on standardized tests. The indictment was so broad that two teachers at different schools who cheated without any knowledge of the other’s actions could be cast as conspirators. And the claim about bonus money didn’t square with the state investigation, which had found that bonus money “provided little incentive to cheat.”

The 12 educators who went to trial had garnered a total of only $1,500 in bonus money, and some never received any at all. One defendant was a teacher whose students didn’t even pass the test.

Others taught first and second grade, where tests were only taken for practice and didn’t count toward the metrics schools were judged upon. That was the case for Shani Robinson. She was accused by a colleague who was granted immunity by the GBI. A testing coordinator had instructed Robinson and other teachers to erase doodles students had drawn on their test booklets, a practice that was allowed under testing regulations. It wasn’t hard for her accuser to twist the scene to fit what investigators were looking for.

The trial lasted eight months — the longest criminal trial in Georgia’s history — and was marred by unreliable testimony. Most educators who were indicted had taken plea deals that required them to confess, accuse, and testify in exchange for community service instead of prison. Witnesses for the prosecution made contradictory statements so often that at one point the judge said, “Perjury is being committed daily here.” Two people even recanted on the witness stand.

At the end of the trial, prosecutors made a last-ditch effort to convince the jury that educators cheated for financial gain by claiming that their salaries — forget the bonus money — justified a RICO conviction. They reiterated that educators could be conspirators without knowing it. And where reason fell short, they relied on emotion, making impassioned declarations like, “America will never be destroyed from the outside! If we falter and lose our freedoms it will be because we destroyed ourselves!”

As if Atlanta educators were responsible for the downfall of democracy.
That was the tenor of the media surrounding the trial as well. Politicians and pundits used the case to paint public education as a failure and peddle corporate-friendly reforms. On the day the prosecution rested, and the cheating scandal dominated headlines, then-Gov. Nathan Deal (R) announced a plan for the state to take over “failing” schools and turn them into charters.

Even if cheating did signal a need for sweeping change, throwing the book at teachers hasn’t led to a better education system. Some students whose tests were manipulated have said the cheating didn’t take a toll on their academic achievement in the first place. The school district’s remediation program for those who have struggled wasn’t very impactful. And new cheating allegations have surfaced because the policies at the root of the problem have not been addressed.

Instead, two educators have served prison sentences and others are headed that way. Changing their sentences and keeping them out of prison would represent a real step toward rectifying the Atlanta cheating scandal.

Civil rights groups, led by the Southern Education Foundation, are opposing the voucher legislation proposed by Republicans in Georgia.

SEF leads opposition to education savings account bill introduced in Georgia legislature

One of the first pieces of legislation introduced in the Georgia legislature in 2021 was the Georgia Educational Scholarship Act (HB60), a bill that would divert taxpayer dollars to private schools. In February, SEF and nine other education and equity-focused organizations sent a letter to the Georgia House Committee on Education expressing concerns that HB60 would divert funds from public education at a time when schools can least afford to lose it, and further perpetuate inequities.

SEF prepared analysis of the bill and a backgrounder on academic outcomes and participation requirements for similar tax credit scholarship programs across the country.

SEF’s Legislative and Research Analyst also provided testimony to the Senate Education and Youth Committee on SB47, a proposed expansion of the state’s existing special needs voucher program.