Dan DeLamater of Athens, Georgia, is a conservative Republican, a public school parent, and an insurance executive. Maureen Downey posted his article on her blog “Get Schooled” in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
DeLamater says he is “disgusted” by Governor Nathan Deal’s proposal for a statewide “opportunity school district,” in which the state would abrogate local control and take over low-performing schools. He wrote: Unfortunately, opportunity in this administration is defined by crony capitalism not beneficial education reform.
DeLamater came to see that ALEC was behind the state takeover plan:
First, we have learned about ALEC, a hideous national legislative-steering organization where lobbyists, private interests, and legislators craft legislation behind closed doors. There is no sunlight on this entity. There is no accountability. Participants are back-room puppet masters controlling the local and national political agenda. Until recently, most of us had no idea it even existed.
Regarding one important topic, ALEC is admittedly and proudly against public education. The for-profit education industry rules ALEC’s agenda here – including testing companies, consultants, for-profit schools. And lest you doubt ALEC’s influence in Georgia, know that state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, has served as National Chairman for ALEC.
Second, we have learned that Gov. Deal has become enamored with state takeover of school districts. The power play topped the governor’s education agenda in the last legislative session, in the form of the legislation to allow a state-wide referendum to create the “Opportunity School District.”
This state takeover is contrary to the long-standing “conservative” mandate of local control within the Republican Party since a state takeover clearly usurps locally elected school boards. This is contrary to any information provided by the governor’s appointed Education Reform Commission as their recommendations are still under construction to this day. This is contrary to our state’s Constitutional mandate as Georgia state government is forbidden to control local school districts.
Third, we know the governor hired an inexperienced but eager-to-lead Erin Hames as his education expert. The statewide-elected Georgia state school superintendent was evidently not an appropriate expert for Gov. Deal. This is not a surprise, of course. After all, Deal has minimized and circumvented the voters’ superintendent for years – John Barge previously and Richard Woods recently.
Hames lobbied for the takeover law, pushed it through the legislature, then–before leaving public employ–created a consulting business to advise districts on how to avoid falling prey to the law she helped to pass.
Her first contract was a no-bid contract with the Atlanta Public Schools for $96,000.
The APS Board has $96,000 available to hire Ms. Hames. I fear for those who are not as fortunate as the APS. Or Gov. Deal. Or Ms. Hames. Or their friends. I wonder where public school children in Georgia fall in this pecking order… you’ll be hard pressed to find their interests represented by anyone involved in this sordid tale.