Statement

Education Leader Says Proposed Election Legislation Would Undermine Local School Governance and Suppress Honest and Necessary Classroom Conversations 

MEDIA CONTACT:  Gretchen Wright, gwright@southerneducation.org, (202) 421-5830

November 16, 2021 (Atlanta, Georgia) — The Southern Education Foundation released the following statement from its President and CEO about two bills introduced during the Georgia Special Session to redraw district lines and change the rules for school board elections:

The two bills introduced during the Georgia Special Session, SB 5 EX and SB 6 EX, are the latest in a series of attempts to undermine the will of voters, change district lines to increase representation by a party that did not win the last election, and suppress honest and necessary conversations about the full history of race and racism in our nation.

In 2020, voters legally elected school board members who represented their communities and their interests with regard to education. Now, a small group of state legislators is attempting to undermine local control and thwart democracy by changing the election rules and the numbers of districts so that school boards will represent those legislators’ narrow interests and not the interests of the local community.

During a hearing on the bills, Senator Clint Dixon clearly articulated that this legislation is intended to prevent the teaching of what is wrongly and cynically being referred to as “critical race theory.” Let us be clear: Critical Race Theory is not and never was taught in k-12 schools anywhere in Georgia or in our country. What is being taught in k-12 history and civics classes are lessons about the true history of our nation – good and bad – including the issues around race and the vestiges of racism. These classroom discussions – through curricula and other means – are crucial to help students understand our history and learn from it, so that they can help build a future that lives up to the ideals upon which this country was founded: that all are created equal.

I urge us all to remember and abide by the words of General Colin Powell, who said this about the troubling parts of our nation’s history: “Above all, never lose faith in America. Its faults are yours to fix, not to curse.”

Facing up to embarrassing chapters in American history is not cursing America. Rather, recognizing those flaws allows for open and honest dialogue about how to correct them and make our nation stronger and better.

With all the challenges we currently face in education, particularly as a result of the unfinished learning caused by the pandemic, it is deeply disappointing that legislators have chosen to focus on disenfranchising voters rather than helping students recover learning time and improving our state’s schools. This is the time to invest in ensuring that all students have access to high-quality education and focus on important issues like growing teacher shortages, the persistent digital divide, and equitable school resources, not to undermine and destabilize school governance for political gain.

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Originally founded in 1867 to educate Black children and children from low-income families in the South, the Southern Education Foundation also has a long history of developing leaders in education and was a pivotal source of research and data to support legislation and litigation aimed at fighting inequity in education during the civil rights era. The organization today conducts leadership development, research, and advocacy to improve educational opportunities for low-income students and students of color and achieve educational equity in the Southern U.S. It is based in Atlanta, Georgia. Find out more at https://southerneducation.org