Gov. Nathan Deal’s recent remarks that “colored people” should support his proposed Opportunity School District on Tuesday’s general election ballot has already sparked outrage and a call for an apology.
Now, Georgia Democrats are using it to criticize the governor and his proposal before votes are counted. The OSD proposal is Amendment 1 on this year’s ballot.
“Hearing the comments Governor Deal made only solidified in my mind, my neighbors’ minds that the person that was behind this does not have the best interests of my community and the communities of children that look like my son Carter, that are going to be attending those schools that he’s looking to take over,” Nikema Williams, first vice chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia, said Friday.
More coverage of the Opportunity School District debate:
In a speech this week in Savannah, Deal was recorded using the out-dated phrase to refer to African-Americans.
“The irony of some of the groups who are opposing doing something to help these minority children is beyond my logic,” Deal said in the speech, which was first reported by WAGA in Atlanta. “If you want to advance the state of colored people, start with their children.”
The governor quickly sent word that he meant to refer to the NAACP — the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People — but misspoke. He went on to tell WAGA, however, that he stands behind the sentiment: African-Americans should support the amendment.
Deal has staked a great deal of political capital on passage of the OSD. It would allow the state to intercede in schools that are graded as “failing” on state rankings for three years in a row. Opponents say it would strip local communities of control of their schools and enrich for-profit charter school organizations, while proponents argue it would actually give local communities more power and would be a temporary intrusion that would pay long-term benefits.
The Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebeneezer Baptist Church, called Deal’s comments a distraction.
“I am opposed to OSD,” Warnock said Friday, shortly before he and other Democrats headed out on a statewide get-out-the-vote effort. “I think it’s a power grab and we need to stay focused on the issue at hand. And that is to ensure Georgia’s children, all of our children, have access to quality education.
“I don’t think we should get distracted. We should stay focused.”