The November campaign to re-establish state government’s authority to set up local charter schools in Georgia will look very much like this summer’s effort to pass a transportation sales tax.
But in a good way.
That’s according to a private PowerPoint outline that’s being passed to members and friends of the Georgia Charter Schools Association, and which has fallen into our hands. You can see it here.
The presentation describes a $2.7 million statewide campaign that will be divided into a $974,000 tax-free “educational” effort dubbed “Brighter Georgia,” controlled by the charter schools association, and a traditional get-out-the-vote campaign with a $1.8 million price tag called Families for Better Schools. That’s a page torn right from the T-SPLOST push.
The two organizations had raised a combined $988,000 as of Sept. 1, the memo said.
At the top of the organizational chart of the Families for Better Schools campaign — contained within the memo — is a bipartisan team of political strategists: Republicans Chip Lake, Heath Garrett and Mitch Hunter; and Democrat Chris Carpenter.
All four were involved in the July 31 T-SPLOST effort — but in the statewide campaign outside metro Atlanta, where three regions actually approved the tax.
Bert Brantley, who served as the voice of the doomed metro Atlanta T-SPLOST campaign, will serve as spokesman for the charter school campaign. Brantley confirmed the accuracy of the information contained in the GCSA’s outline of the campaign — which was not intended for public distribution.
The electronic memo outlines the history of the state’s dilemma. In 2011, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that a state commission set up to license public charter schools was unconstitutional. Justices pointed to a provision of the constitution they said put the creation of individual schools in the hands of local boards of education.
Advocates say that, without the constitutional amendment, a dependable “pipeline” for the creation of nontraditional schools would be closed. Opponents maintain that yet another state agency able to create charter schools — the state Board of Education can already do so — would siphon much-needed money from local school systems.
Gov. Nathan Deal backs the Nov. 6 proposal and has already weighed in to help neutralize some opposition.
The memo also lays out some of the strategy supporters intend to use:
• “Hope is in your hands” is the slogan of the charter school campaign. Brantley acknowledged that the key word in that phrase harkens not only to the state’s HOPE scholarship franchise, but also the “hope and change” touted by the re-election campaign of President Barack Obama.
The presidential contest will conclude on the same day as the charter school vote. Minority voters who consider their children trapped in failing urban schools are a crucial audience for the charter school measure.
“We just felt the word captured what was being offered,” Brantley said.
• Already existing charter schools are being asked to contribute to the effort, though donations to the “educational” portion of the campaign aren’t likely to be made public. “Virtually all our state-approved charter schools have pledged to this campaign. However, to date, only two have paid their pledges. We are encouraging the state charters to at least invest a payment toward their financial commitments,” a note attached to the PowerPoint presentation reported.
• Rather than emphasize messages delivered by TV and radio, as metro Atlanta’s T-SPLOST campaign did, the charter school campaign will depend on a “bare bones” effort of social media, direct mail and robo-calls. The electronic memo included a copy of a brochure — 20,000 copies of which will be handed to charter school students and their parents for distribution.
Some of the messages in the electronic memo were clearly meant for interior consumption only. Without the charter school amendment, school systems might “approve/renew fewer or no [charter] schools based on budgetary considerations alone,” the memo said.
That’s not a sentence to throw in front of voters still stung by the Great Recession.
The private memo also emphasized the historic nature of Georgia’s charter school vote. “No other state has had a positive outcome for a charter-positive ballot initiative,” it said. “… Passing the amendment sets a national precedent for other states.”
That’s information meant for campaign contributors rather than voters. My Atlanta Journal-Constitution colleague Wayne Washington reported this week that only 4 percent of money raised for the campaign arm of the charter school effort comes from within Georgia.
Starting a national fire might appeal to someone like Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton of Arkansas, who has given $250,000 to the Georgia cause. But such pioneering might not appeal to your average voter. He or she might wonder about the hidden hazards of going first.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider