Teachers Help Send Barnes Packing; Many Angry about School Reforms

Article excerpt

Byline: Teresa Stepzinski, Times-Union staff writer

Teachers taught Gov. Roy Barnes a lesson on Election Day.

Southeast Georgia educators joined their colleagues statewide to oust the Democratic incumbent who they say pushed through a flawed education reform program that unfairly blamed them for lackluster student performance.

Even teachers who had never voted for a Republican before said they cast their ballot for Sonny Perdue.

"Any teacher who voted for [Barnes] was crazy. He spit in all our faces," said Bob Bouchard, representative for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators in Glynn County.

"Absolutely, it was an anti-Barnes vote," Bouchard said. "I think teachers and the extended family of teachers were solely responsible for Barnes' defeat."

The group is the largest association of professional educators in Georgia. It has about 53,000 members statewide, including about 400 in Glynn County. The association is made up of teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, school support staff, maintenance workers and school bus drivers.

Although some aspects of education reform were good, the way Barnes implemented them was wrong, educators said. Other reforms were "ill-conceived" and mandated changes without providing any support to school districts, Bouchard said.

"He said this is the way it's going to be done and if you don't like it, then you can hit the road."

Jeff Hubbard, a gifted programs teacher at Kendrick Middle School in Jonesboro, picked Perdue despite supporting Barnes in 1998.

"Did I vote against Barnes? You bet. Instead of asking for our help on education reform, he held us up as the whipping boy," Hubbard said.

Brantley County School Superintendent William "Al" Hunter said Barnes' loss gave him a feeling of deja vu.

After he was elected governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton angered teachers there with a competency test. Teachers helped send him packing in 1980, Hunter said.

"The education reforms in Georgia kind of took a shot at teachers when they didn't deserve it," Hunter said. "I was with [Gov. Clinton] the night he got beat. …