By State Representative Mesha Mainor (D-Atlanta)
The truth may not always be newsworthy, but catchy titles for readership is proving costly for news outlets in the long-run. A recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) article headlines me as a “Republican delight” based on my decision to vote in favor of Senate Bill 233, legislation which would give children living in poverty an opportunity to go to better performing schools. This bill does not allow affluent families to use “school choice” as a funding mechanism to pay for private school as opponents suggest.
Lawmakers must publicly acknowledge the hypocrisy of voting against parent-choice options if they send their own children to a private school due to dissatisfaction for their locally zoned public school. Sending a child to private school is nearly double the amount of any “school choice” option used outside of the local school system.
I represent the highest percentage of families that send their children to charter schools. My district has an unprecedented number of public school students that cannot read or perform simple math and do not meet the requirements to graduate. Legislators must come to terms with the realities parents face in these dire circumstances. My party is losing Black voters as their connection to them dwindles. I am not the one that needs to change, the Georgia House Democratic sweeping stance against school choice and parent advocacy needs to change.
Democrats have been presented with polling data showing that Democrat voters support “school choice,” but my party drew a definitive line to support teacher unions over actual teachers and students. Even now, some lawmakers would rather disseminate lies to voters to give them hope about a failing system. Black voters care about moment-to-moment kitchen table issues over political agendas. Holding on by a shoe string, Black loyalty to Democrats is met with allegiances to every group except them. I believe that the moment a party actually listens to Black voters, a revolution in politics will occur.
So, when my colleague calls me an opportunist, maybe they are right. I emphatically want opportunities for children to create a revolution of new readers, high school graduates and future business owners. Being cast as a white supremacist and nationalist for supporting charter schools, school choice and Black children is quite a stretch for a Black woman that grew up in Atlanta’s westside Bluff community.
Additionally, I hope to provide clarity regarding other legislative actions that have drawn public attention, including my reasoning to support legislation to implement more oversight for Georgia’s prosecutors. As a proud Atlanta Public Schools graduate, I am known to be unapologetic and unafraid, which includes supporting the prosecutor oversight bill. This legislation will help Black families who have lost their children to police violence if a prosecutor subjectively fails to move forward with their case against “bad actors” in law enforcement. This legislation was years in the making, even before Atlanta’s district attorney garnered national attention for investigating former President Donald Trump. As a resource, I would like to point readers to a video recording of my recent “Say Their Name” remembrance event for victims lost to police violence, which can be viewed here: https://vimeo.com/manage/videos/833780919.
Furthermore, I did vote in support of a Republican-sponsored bill to change Ware County’s election board, but the AJC omitted a nearly identical Democrat-sponsored election bill for Gwinnett County. I supported both – one passed, and one failed.
The AJC’s recent article about my voting record fails to justify their claims heading into an election year. These attention-grabbing headlines are damaging to my character, especially in a hyper-partisan environment. It’s defamatory at the least and as if the article was written by stagnant colleagues who do not believe that those in House District 56 should have a voice. One could even suggest that the article’s intent aims to polarize and amplify partisanship. An apology is warranted.
While our jobs are very different, elected officials and members of the media have a responsibility to the public. Lawmakers must remember that constituents do not elect us to play games using taxpayer dollars. As for our local news outlets, citizens need reporting that is neutral and fair.
Representative Mesha Mainor represents the citizens of District 56, which includes portions of Fulton County. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 2020 and currently serves on the Education, Governmental Affairs, Regulated Industries and State Planning & Community Affairs committees.