Georgia teachers group breaks with Stacey Abrams: ‘She turned a deaf ear on us’

House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. Kent Johnson/AJC photo.

House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. Kent Johnson/AJC photo.

A Georgia teachers group has publicly broken with one of its most reliable allies over Gov. Nathan Deal’s failed education initiative.

Both the Georgia Federation of Teachers and House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, the top Democrat in the chamber, opposed Deal’s plan to empower the state to take control of persistently struggling schools. But the teachers group recently gave Abrams a vote of “no confidence” for what it said was her failure to block the plan from being placed on this November’s ballot.

The proposed constitutional amendment received the required two-thirds majority vote from the Legislature in 2015.

“A leader of a caucus is supposed to hold their caucus together,” said Verdaillia Turner, the group’s president. “Several Democrats in the House walked or voted their own way. Stacey voted the right way, but that’s a smokescreen.”

The measure squeaked through the House on a 121-47 vote — just one more than the 120 needed — despite some Republican opposition. Eleven Democrats broke party lines to back it.

Abrams said in a statement that she and the GFT have disagreed on “tactical approaches” but share a commitment to education and supporting the development of Georgia’s children. She also said she looks forward to working with the federation and other teacher groups in the years to come.

Democrats in the state Senate also failed to block the measure, but Turner said her group didn’t target the party’s leaders in that chamber because only one lawmaker, state Sen. Freddie Powell Sims of Dawson, broke with the caucus. Turner also indicated that her opposition to Abrams could continue should the Atlanta Democrat seek higher office.

“She wants to be governor, but she needs to be a leader where she is first,” said Turner. “She turned a deaf ear on us.”


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