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Mixed messages?

Gov. Roy Barnes of Georgia won't run for re-election until 2002, but he's already dipping into his campaign funds to promote his A-Plus School Reform Act.

Gov. Roy Barnes

The governor, a Democrat, has spent $300,000 from his war chest to run two television commercials, in which he talks about the highlights of the package. Those include smaller class sizes, the end of teacher tenure, and a new testing and school accountability system.

The ads were timed to run with Mr. Barnes' signing of the bill, which took place April 25.

But some observers questioned whether the commercials had another purpose as well: garnering support for Democratic candidates, given that last week was also the period to qualify for this year's elections for the state legislature and Congress. According to the governor's office, though, the timing was nothing but a coincidence.

"This is just one of the many things the governor is doing to educate Georgians about the law," said Matthew Granade, a spokesman for the governor.

For his part, Tim Callahan, a spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, said the nonunion teachers' group wasn't surprised by the ads, because "all along this has been a political movement." He added that he thought the ads, which began airing even before the bill was signed, came a little too soon.

"His claims of victory are a little premature," Mr. Callahan said. "We're a long way from 'We've done it!'"

In one of the spots, Mr. Barnes says, "You asked for reform, and we did it."

The governor, however, also emphasizes that the process of improvement takes time.

"Education reform is a big job, but we're off to a good start," he says.

—Linda Jacobson

Vol. 19, Issue 34, Page 24

Published in Print: May 3, 2000, as State Journal

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