Opponents of Tuesday’s charter school ballot question this afternoon unveiled a series of four racially provocative, 60-second radio spots aimed at African-American audiences across the state.
Three of the radio ads include this plea from the 91-year-old Rev. Joseph Lowery, the legendary civil rights figure: “Don’t let them resegregate our schools.”
In case that message didn’t penetrate, the opposition group — Vote Smart! No to State-Controlled Schools — labeled one of the spots “Plessy” and another “Ferguson.” Plessy v. Ferguson was the 1896 U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized segregated public facilities in the South and ushered in the Jim Crow era.
It’s important to note that the charter school measure, which would reaffirm state authority to create charter schools over the objections of local systems, has significant support among African-Americans, according to polls – who figure heavily in pro-Amendment One advertising.
Listen to “Plessy” here:
Female narrator: “Nothing is more important than our schools. The power to control our local schools is one of our most precious rights. The courts have protected that right. But now, politicians and out-of-state money are trying to resegregate our schools. Amendment One would change the constitution.
“Unless we vote no, politicians in Atlanta will create a dual school system and take away our community’s right to control our local schools. Don’t let a small group of politicians in Atlanta resegregate our schools. Vote no on Amendment One. And keep control of our schools in our hands.”
Lowery: ”My beloved, I am the Rev. Joseph Lowery. Don’t let them resegregate our schools. I’m voting no on Amendment One. Thank you for listening.”
Former state labor commissioner and U.S. Senate candidate Michael Thurmond is featured in one of the four spots. He avoids the word “resegregate” but urges voters not to “let a small group of politicians turn back the clock.”
Families for Better Public Schools, the lead organization in support of the proposed constitutional amendment, already had a 10 a.m. Thursday press conference scheduled at the state Capitol, featuring African-American pastors in support of the measure.
Look for the radio ads to be a major topic.
Updated at 8:03 a.m. Thursday: State Rep. Rahn Mayo, D-Decatur, an Amendment One supporter who will be at the above event, sent this reaction last night:
“The time has come for us to move beyond the comparisons of education reform efforts to brutally painful and overtly inhumane periods in our nation’s history. Unfortunately, we are faced with the difficult task of addressing a crisis in our public school system, and it is understandable that this necessary change is met with great resistance. However, countless African-American children have been denied access to quality education over the past four decades, and this issue must be addressed in a variety of ways.
“Injecting harsh racial associations into the debate about the Charter Schools Amendment is counterproductive to a meaningful dialogue about how we evolve and provide our children with better access to quality educational options in Georgia.”
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider