Out-of-State Corporate Interests Fund Charter School Amendment Push


(APN) ATLANTA — Out-of-state corporate interests have spent millions of dollars to fund the campaign in favor of the constitutional amendment referendum related to charter schools that appears on the November 06, 2012 General Election ballot.

Overall, some of the groups that have been in support of the amendment include Families for Better Public Schools, Georgia Parent Advocacy Network, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, 100 Dads, Brighter Georgia Education Coalition, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), and StudentsFirst.

One of those groups, AFP, is an out-of-state group founded by David H. Koch, one of the controversial Koch brothers, who have spent millions of dollars supporting Republican candidates and causes.

Another supporter is the Committee for Educational Freedom, with half of its four donors from out-of-state, accounting for 84 percent of their funding.

One of the largest supporters of the charter amendment is the Families for Better Public Schools (FBPS), which received most of their donations from out-of-state groups.  

FBPS is chaired by State Rep. Ed Lindsey (R-Atlanta), who sponsored both the HR 1162 charter school ballot amendment and the HB 881, which created the Georgia Charter School Commission in 2008.  

FBPS alone raised around 2.8 million dollars in donations to support charter schools, according to the website of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission (GGTCFC).

FBPS raised 486,750 dollars in August 2012, and 466,000 dollars of that came from out-of-state sources, mainly from charter school Educational Management Organization (EMO) companies, which stand to benefit from the potential increase in taxpayer funded government contracts or grants to provide various services for charter schools.

Donors to FBPS include Alice Walton, daughter of Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, $600,000; CSUSA, a for-profit EMO that manages one charter in Georgia, $50,000; Edison Learning Inc., a for-profit EMO that manages one Georgia charter, $2,000; Education Reform Now of New York, $6,000; J.C. Huizenga of Huizenga Group, $75,000; K12, Inc., a for-profit EMO out of Virginia, $100,000; National Heritage Academies, $25,000; National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, $1,000; McKenna Long & Aldridge, an Atlanta law firm, $1,000; StudentsFirst, headed by CEO Michelle Rhee, out of California, $256,000; Davidson Companies out of Montana, $5,000; Georgia Chamber of Commerce, $10,000; Joe Birdy on New York, an executive of Hamlin, $25,000; developer Tom Cousins of Atlanta, $20,000; Doris Fischer of California, $250,000; Richard Gaby, CEO of Peter Island Resorts, from Duluth, Georgia, $100,000; and Bernie Marcus of Atlanta, $250,000.

The Georgia Charter Schools Association (GCSA) also supports the amendment; they are a trade group that is in part funded by some taxpayer dollars through their school membership fees.

The Brighter Georgia Education Coalition (BGEC) is another large Georgia group that has put up billboards around Atlanta, and is sponsored by the Faith & Freedom Coalition, the American Federation for Children (AFC, funded by Koch), the Friedman Foundation, and the Ivy Preparatory Academy, a charter school.  

The GCSA has many of the same sponsors as BGEC and AFC.

Meanwhile, there are many Georgia groups who have opposed the amendment, including the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE), Georgia School Superintendents Association (GSSA), Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA), Georgia Retired Educators Association (GREA), Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE), Georgia Parent Teachers Association (GPTA), Cobb County Association of Educators (CCAE), Educators First, and Georgia Association of Educational Leaders (GAEL).

One of the largest groups against the ballot amendment is a committee called Vote SMART! No to State-Controlled Schools. Vote SMART consists mainly of public school superintendents and teachers in a coalition with many of the groups listed above.

Vote SMART has received donations from many school superintendents, like Marietta Superintendent Dr. Emily Lembeck, who donated 250 dollars, telling the Marietta Daily Journal,  “Since 2003, Marietta City Schools has lost over $30 million in revenue due to state austerity cuts… Parents should be asking why a new funding stream for schools is being opened when their child’s school has suffered state funding reductions.”

Vote SMART raised 80,951 dollars in its August report.  According to the GGTCFC website, Vote SMART total contributions were 309,000 dollars.

Its donors included: Brock Clay Calhoun & Rogers, $2,000; Superintendent Erroll Davis of Atlanta Public Schools, $1,000; King and Spalding, $1,500; Georgia School Boards Association, $5,000; Harben, Hartley, and Hawkins, $1,000; Ron Hinkle, Corus Group CFO, $10,000; and others.


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