Our special guest on this week’s episode of the Better Georgia Podcast is Sid Chapman, president of the Georgia Association of Educators and candidate for state superintendent of schools of Georgia. (Read the transcript). The Georgia Association of Educators chose to endorse Stacey Abrams for Governor and believe that she is the way forward for Georgia’s public school system. Listen in to learn more about Sid Chapman and the Georgia Association of Educators, and why they endorsed Stacey Abrams for Governor of Georgia.
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The Georgia Association of Educators is all about public schools and ensuring that every child in Georgia has a great public school.” – Sid Chapman
- What the Georgia Association of Educators is and who it is for
- Why the Georgia Association of Educators gets politically involved
- The reasons why the Georgia Association of Educators supports Stacey Abrams
- How the Amendment 1 decision and the Hope Scholarship influenced their decision
- Why Sid believes that we should focus on the issues and not the baggage of a candidate
- What issues had to be considered in the different candidates for Governor
- The importance of the Georgia Association of Educators to schools in Georgia
Stacey [Abrams] is well known nationally and has taken a stand for education on a national level.” – Sid Chapman
- Connect with Sid Chapman and the Georgia Association of Educators
We’re a hundred percent behind Stacey Abrams, and we believe that she’ll do a great job [as Governor].” – Sid Chapman
00:04 Introduction. [music]
01:01 Speaker 1: Alright, this is Louis and Bryan with the Better Georgia podcast. And today we are speaking with Sid Chapman, President of the Georgia Association of Educators. Sid, great to speak with you.
01:13 Sid Chapman: It’s good to be here with you gentlemen, and always a pleasure to see you, and to be here and talk to you as President of the Georgia Association of Educators.
01:25 S1: Before we get started, why don’t you tell us little bit about the Georgia Association of Educators and what you do there.
01:31 SC: Okay, GAE is the state affiliate of the National Education Association, which has 3.2 million members. It’s the largest union in the United States. Of course, in Georgia, we do not have bargaining rights, but we’re still members of the NEA. And GAE is all about public schools, and to help ensure that every student or every child in Georgia has a great public school, and that we work for the betterment of education through helping teachers through professional development, protecting their rights, and also the rights of the students in schools. Our goal is to have the best public education system in Georgia.
02:18 Bryan Long: Great. We have a series of podcast where we’re talking about the competitive primaries that democrats have, and one of the themes of our podcast has been that we’re seeing more competitive primaries this year. Thanks to an increase in the number of democrats who wanna be on the ballot. That’s great. That is great news, competition is good. But, it creates some difficult races or some difficult decisions for the voters when they go into the ballot box. They have to actually make a decide as a democrat, which democrat is better. That’s also true for organizations like yours. And GAE recently endorsed Stacey Abrams in her run for Georgia governor, and we wanted to talk about that. And before I ask my first question, I wanna note that there are two labor organizations in Georgia: GAE, which is the largest and the American Federation of Teachers, did I get…
03:15 SC: Georgia Federation of Teachers.
03:16 BL: Georgia Federation of Teachers.
03:18 SC: Teachers groups.
03:20 BL: Teachers groups. And there’s sort of a split in their endorsement. We wanted to talk today about why GAE weighted into this primary fight, which you didn’t have to do, and why you chose Stacey Abrams?
03:36 SC: As I was explaining, GAE and things we do, we do have a fund for public education, a PAC if you will. And we do get involved politically, because so much of what happens in public education happens under the dome, with decisions on the state capitol and at the national level. NEA is politically active and has a PAC as well. We only endorse on public education issues, not others. Very often, people misunderstand that, that they may like people for other reasons. But our decisions are made, basically, only on public education issues. Each candidate has a report card that we go by. And when our PAC meets, they go through the report card and then we also send out questionnaires and then we invite the candidates in. And as you said, this year is a very busy year, not only with the governors race, but with so many races. And many of the primary’s were uncontested before, because you didn’t have very many on either side…
04:44 BL: Is that exciting or is that a problem? [chuckle]
04:47 SC: It’s very exciting and it’s also very taxing. You had to make sure that everyone… We target races, particularly in the Senate and the house races, go for those first that are competitive, and where we have friends of education, they were there. People who are not friends of public education and we target those races, pay more attention in the beginning and work our way down. Of course, the governor’s race is the most important, top of the ticket. Both Ms. Abrams and Ms. Evans were invited to the GAE to be interviewed. I recused myself from the PAC this year, because I’m a candidate, so I recused myself from that process, but they were both brought in and interviewed. And through the process of looking at the voting record, the PAC unanimously decided upon Stacey Abrams because of her background, her voting record with public education in Georgia, her stand against the Amendment 1, other issues that have affected teachers and students in Georgia. The decision was, that she would be the best candidate that we should support.
06:04 BL: And do you think that her position with the Amendment 1, which we called The School Takeover Amendment back in 2016, do you think that Stacey Abrams’ position on that amendment largely influenced the organization’s decision or was it just one of many things?
06:26 SC: It was one of many things because it did make it through the legislature to get on the ballot, so there were some discussion about that. Although she is opposed to it, we did have some dissent there.
06:41 BL: She supported putting it on the ballot? 06:43 SC: No, she did not.
06:43 BL: She did not.
06:44 SC: She did not. She voted against that, but there were some dissenters within the caucus that voted for it. But when we got out there, and she helped campaign against it, and helped work to get it defeated, whereas the opponent did vote for the OSD. Many other issues along the way, funding, and other public education issues, Stacey is wellknown nationally and has taken a stand for public education on the national level, as does Abrams. Our PAC was impressed with her, our board unanimously voted to support her, and we’re looking forward to working with her as Governor.
07:31 BL: Sure. And is the PAC that made this decision, is it a local Georgiabased PAC?
07:36 SC: Yes. It is the GAE PAC, and it’s made up of a diverse group of folks from across the state.
07:43 BL: And how do you think Stacey Abrams performed as minority leader? Do you have an opinion on that?
07:52 SC: She has an A+ rating with GAE and NEA, so you can’t beat that. You can’t get any higher than that.
08:01 BL: I’m curious if you considered, ’cause I know, there’s not a lot of daylight between these two candidates on their issues, just when you look at the broad spectrum of issues. As Democrats and Progressives, we look for the small areas where there are differences.
08:17 SC: Right.
08:19 BL: And OSD is one, and that vote they both took in the legislature, but I’m curious if the GAE looked at HOPE Scholarship. Was that part of the discussion?
08:31 SC: HOPE Scholarship was very much part of the discussion. There’s been a lot of changes along the way, a lot of discussion with the HOPE Scholarship. And some changes that we were happy about, and some we were not happy about, but it is still active. And we want to see those who need it the most, and keep it funded, and keep it focused toward those who need it the most. So both candidates have pretty good rating on HOPE.
08:58 BL: I know that after the endorsement, after GAE’s endorsement of Stacey Abrams which was, as you’ve explained, purely on her educational votes, some news came out about her personal finances, some debt. She owes $50,000 to the IRS, some $76,000 on credit cards, and some student loan money to Yale Law School. Does that give you any pause or concern at all about her personal finances?
09:28 SC: No one within our board, or our PAC, or anyone has made any kind of recommendation toward those things. Everybody owes [chuckle] somebody it appears, so we’ll see how that plays out. I don’t foresee it being a problem.
09:47 BL: Do you think that she’s in a strong position in a primary? Do you think Stacey Abrams with that, I’ll call it baggage, I don’t know what else to call it, around her personal finances, do you think that will become a target for Republicans in November?
10:01 SC: As you know, politics can get dirty and if you start finding things that you can point out, I’m sure that both the opposition has baggage, too, [chuckle] on the other side. Sometimes it’s good just to leave those kinds of things out, and I would prefer people to stick to the issues and stick to what that person’s background has done as a public servant and go with that.
10:32 BL: So coming back to the issues, one of the things that I’ve heard people complain about on Stacey Abrams, and one of the things that personally I was bothered by is, after the vote of the Amendment 1 vote, the Opportunity School District, was defeated soundly by the public. In 2016, it was on the ballot, and I think close to 60% voted “no” on that, then suddenly the Governor got a large part of that Opportunity School District passed as legislation. And Stacey Abrams supported it, or helped shepherd that through in some way, and I know she argues that she made it better. But, does that give you any concern at all that she was helping get a bill through that voters had just said no to?
11:19 SC: The Opportunity School District, of course, was an amendment to the Constitution. And when we followed OSD, the amendment, we said that there were laws that existed that covered all of that, so basically that’s what they used for laws that were on the books…
11:36 BL: You strengthened those existing laws?
11:39 SC: A lot of them that we didn’t even know that were there, [chuckle] they pull them out of the… Because there was even a law that said they could be forprofit charters, but we worked to get that taken out of the bill, and to have community schools’ issues added to that, to the turnaround, and the length of time that a school would be taken over. GAE was very, very active in that. And when it came down to the vote, we basically said we didn’t support it or we didn’t oppose it, because we had mixed feelings about it. It started out pretty much as a voucher bill, and that was taken out. It was OSDlight, you could say, but it wasn’t an amendment, it was a law. And laws can be changed much easier than an amendment can be changed.
12:26 BL: Do you know if Stacey Abrams has committed to rolling back some of those laws if she becomes governor? Is that on the table at all?
12:35 SC: I have personally talked to her about a number of things that concern me and game, and so we hope to see some changes and improvements as always in public education. That’s why we support candidates that are propublic education. And how they work with us as an association depends on how our future recommendations will go. If we support you and then you don’t keep your promises, then you get reevaluated.
13:05 BL: Right. You’re looking for an ongoing commitment?
13:08 SC: Right.
13:09 BL: I think those are all the questions I have. I was just curious if there was any other differences between the two candidates, Abrams and Evans, that you saw. Was there anything that gave the committee pause from an Evans’ perspective, looking at her record other than the vote on OSD?
13:25 SC: OSD, I think, was probably the largest. I think maybe some votes in committees that had maybe some voucheresque kind of language in it, and may have been part of it. I wasn’t in the room, I wasn’t even in the building, so I was not privy to the conversation that was going on. But, everyone that was there, they were 100%, there was one abstention, but the rest of the committee voted for her.
13:54 BL: Just to wrap things up, do you have any last thoughts on… As our listeners are trying to make this decision and going to their poling stations on May 22nd, is there anything else you would say to advocate for Stacey Abrams?
14:10 SC: As you look at the two candidates, we’re delighted to see two good candidates, and so many women this year that are running, and having so many Democrats and propublic education, and even some Republicans that are proeducation. With Stacey Abrams as our endorsed candidate, we want everyone to take a close look at her voting record with public education, and listen to her platform with public education, what her goals are. And we believe that they’ll make the right decision at the ballot box.
14:45 BL: It is refreshing to actually have a lot of competition, and to have so many people fighting for progressive values and fighting for schools and public education.
14:53 SC: Absolutely. 14:55 BL: It’s a change.
14:56 SC: It is a change. And it has a blessing and it’s a curse at the same time, because it makes it more difficult to choose between some. But, we’re 100% behind Stacey Abrams, and we believe that she’ll do a great job. We’ll see how the primary goes and go from there.
15:14 S1: Thank you. Sid, as we wrap it up, if our listeners want to learn more about the Georgia Association of Educators or get involved in any way, how can listeners support GAE and how can they find you all?
15:28 SC: The website is gae.org, and there’s some parts that are member only, but there’s a public part. And we have a Facebook page that comments can go on, and we send out legislative reports on that and to our members. Remember the GAE is made up of 183 local affiliates and sometimes folks… Just like in say, Atlanta Association of Educators, it’s a GAE affiliate, the Organization of DeKalb Educators is a GAE affiliate. Many times people don’t make that connection. When you know what the local is, even down in Bibb County or Chatham County, they’re all GAE. You could go to those local affiliates as well and learn more.
16:16 S1: Since we have you, I wanna ask one last question. What is the importance of the GAE to teachers and to schools? What do you do to support our teachers?
16:26 SC: On the local level, of course, that’s why we have local affiliates, and many of them support candidates for the Board of Ed and they lobby for the educators. Not just teachers, administrators, education support professionals, that includes bus drivers, parents, and people that you meet at the door, cafeteria workers. We want better salaries, better benefits, protect their rights as employees, to get a fair shake if they’re trying to be dismissed or what have you, to improve the evaluation process. We work under the capital also because everything is based on law in Georgia. We do not have bargaining rights, so we have to do interestbased bargaining as it be, talk to the folks that are in power, and get the right people elected that we can work with.
17:20 S1: Sure. By representing these teachers, you get better teachers and better schools.
17:24 SC: Absolutely, we try to recruit… Professional development, we offer a great deal of professional development for our members. And we try to recruit in the colleges and support those students, and recruit them to be teachers as well, go in public education. We stand for public education. That’s what we’re all about.
17:43 S1: Sid Chapman, President of the Georgia Association of Educators, thank you so much for joining us on the Better Georgia podcast.
17:49 SC: Thank you for having me. It’s always good to see both of you.