One of the scariest moments in cinematic history was the horse head in the bed scene from The Godfather. In the 1972 film directed by Francis Ford Coppola and based on Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel of the same name, the character Mr. Woltz, portrayed as a wealthy businessman, awakes to soft Italian music, a lovely sunrise and a sweet bird in a cage only to find the bloody head of his most prized race horse in the bed with him.
Disturbing and frightening, the horse head is a message from the mob – do it our way … or else.
Whether you liked the Woltz character or were rooting for the Corleone family, most viewers were uncomfortable with that level of intimidation. We still are.
In a September 20, 2012 letter to the Georgia School Board, an Atlanta law firm sent their own Godfather message. The thirty-nine page tome warns the state school board that its leader, Superintendent John Barge, should stop talking about his opposition to the November charter school ballot referendum. The letter contends that Barge is using his office to advocate a specific position and that isn’t legal.
The letter urges the state school board to act expeditiously, call an emergency meeting, and to order Mr. Barge to cease and desist his illegal activities of unfairly influencing the public debate on charter schools.
As a non-lawyer, I will leave the legal allegations for minds bigger than my own. But to coin another movie line, “I don’t get it.”
As the statewide elected superintendent of schools, it seems Barge, a Republican, might well be the best suited to comment on a statewide education matter. The problem is, Barge’s opinion on the charter schools referendum differs from Georgia’s governor, also a Republican. The Governor, also paid by taxpayer money, is certainly advocating his own position on charter schools. What’s the difference?
In recent weeks, boards of education, superintendents, teachers and public school advocates have voiced concern and opposition to the charter schools ballot initiative that seeks to use taxpayer money to create a parallel school system. This comes at a most difficult time in our economy and at the same time we are furloughing teachers, increasing public school class sizes and reducing teaching materials.
Many chambers of commerce, whose primary role is to cheerlead for and attract business to Georgia, are also concerned about the charter schools amendment. One of the primary sales tools for attracting companies to the state is an excellent public school system. In Gwinnett, the Chamber of Commerce was set to strongly oppose the amendment, but then the Corleones showed up and the organization pulled back and decided upon a “neutral” stance on the measure.
One of the greatest freedoms we enjoy in this country is the ability to openly and without fear express opinion. We can publicly rant and rave, speak our mind, debate, assemble, work hard for or against a candidate or policy. That is a freedom extended to us all and one I would fight for above all others. Debate is healthy and it is a founding principle of our great nation. The public deserves to understand issues before they make a decision in the voting booth. Voters should be provided as much information as possible so they can decide for themselves what matters most.
None of us wants to wake up with a horse head in the bed.