Georgia House Speaker Kills School Choice Bill in Anger over Choice Advocacy Group’s Mailer

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston and his Republican colleagues in the State House pulled a bill that would have expanded school choice for Georgia families, reportedly in anger over a mailer sent by a national pro-school choice organization intended to pressure lawmakers into voting in favor of the bill.

In an interview with Ralston, published Wednesday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) introduced the story as follows:

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.

“I am livid,” Ralston reportedly told AJC, adding:

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. These are people we have tried to help over the years, and they turned to attack us very viciously.

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

To promote the bill, which would have created a $6,000 per student school choice program, national advocacy group the American Federation for Children (AFC), distributed mailers to constituents of a number of Republican lawmakers.

The AJC report described the mailers as featuring “images of Abrams, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris above a picture of the state lawmaker from that particular district.”

“The radical Left want to cancel your right to choose your child’s school,” one side of the mailer read, and urged voters to tell their representative to “stand up to them.”

The other side encouraged voters to call their representative and tell him or her not to “give in to the radical Left.”

In a social media post, school choice advocate Corey DeAngelis, who is also national director of research at AFC, rebuked Ralston’s decision to kill the bill, asserting the move was a “weak excuse to side with the monopoly.”

“School choice is on the Republican Party platform,” DeAngelis continued in a thread. “’Republicans’ who wanted to side with the government school monopoly are upset about the pressure. Why would Speaker Ralston (R) punish families and kill a party platform issue?”

Kaleb McMichen, spokesman for Ralston, told the Washington Examiner the bill was withdrawn “after the American Federation for Children sent mailers attacking more than a dozen members of the Majority Caucus — including members of leadership.”

McMichen said the federation promised to quadruple its mailer campaign budget if the legislation was approved, a statement he said amounted to a “quid pro quo.”

Describing AFC’s activity as “reckless,” McMichen continued the group’s behavior “turned members who were supporting or might have supported the bill against the measure.”

McMichen also declared AFC was “employing traditionally-liberal lobbying tactics to aggressively and irresponsibly advocate for a bill.”

Also in an interview with the Examiner, however, DeAngelis said Ralston should allow the bill to be voted on “so parents can know where their representatives stand.”

He added that, by killing the bill, the Georgia House Speaker is “protecting fake Republicans” who “don’t want to come out against this in an election year.”

“If you are really for school choice, you are not going to kill a bill over a bunch of mailers,” DeAngelis said.

The Georgia Star News reached out to both Ralston and AFC for comment and is awaiting a response.

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Susan Berry, PhD, is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]
Background Photo “Georgia Capital” by andre m. CC BY-SA 3.0.

 

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