Geogia Charter Schools Amendment: What My Vote Will Mean?

Tuesday's ballot includes a Georgia constitutional amendment to re-establish a state commission to approve charter schools. Your job is to decide if that's a good idea.

There aren't a lot of statewide issues on the ballot Nov. 6, but one has the potential to affect school districts, parents and children throughout Georgia.

It's Amendment 1, and the ballot will say it "Provides for improving student achievement and parental involvement through more public charter school options."

The question voters will answer yes or no to is, "Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?"

So, what does a yes vote mean?

If the amendment passes, the state will create a commission that can approve charter schools in local communities, even if local school boards oppose them. Supporters of the amendment believe this is necessary to sidestep obstructionist local school boards that are failing to do their jobs. Opponents fear a loss of local control and a shift of resources from traditional public schools.

What does a no vote mean?

If the amendment fails, local school boards will still be able to approve new charter schools, but the state will not have clear authority to do so. (There's debate over whether the State Board of Education can still hear appeals from petitioners whose schools are rejected locally.)

What's a charter school, anyway?

In short, a charter school is a publicly funded school that's exempted from some state and local rules so it can try more innovative ways of educating kids. Some charter schools in Georgia are operating within local school board governance, and some are operating outside it. Amendment 1 would lead to more charter schools operating independently from local school boards.

So what do I have to decide?

Basically, your decision comes down to: Who do I trust more to make decisions about charter schools: local school boards, or the state of Georgia? If you think the state should have more authority, you probably want to vote yes. If you want the state to stay out if it, you're probably a no vote.

How do I learn more so I can make up my mind?

Follow these links, and look for more related articles on Patch.

Arguments for the charter schools amendment:

Local school boards need more accountability

The amendment empowers parents

The amendment is the epitome of small government

The amendment is another tool for improving Georgia education

Arguments against the charter schools amendment:

Local control is critical

The language of the amendment is misleading

The amendment will effectively privatize Georgia schools

-- Where are you learning about the charter schools amendment? Share links in the comments below. --

Bluedobee November 02, 2012 at 07:43 PM
It's well know that our educational system is failing our children.....so if "conventional" public schools aren't working....then shouldn't we be trying something different. These local school boards don't want to lose their power or control. And most of all....they don't want to lose their exclusive right to school tax money! The truth is..they don't want competition, when maybe competition is exactly what is needed in order to improve the educational system.
Lilburn Community Partnership November 03, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Our Gwinnett Board of Education has approved five charter schools in our county. One charter school that it did not approve sought public funds that were in excess of what it costs to educate students in our county's regular public schools. This local school board decision seems responsible and prudent to me. Why would we want to approve a charter school that wants more money to operate than our public schools? That is unfair competition. Do we want the state approving our local tax dollars for schools that cost more than our regular public schools? The state commission that would approve these expensive charter schools would not be accountable to Gwinnett Voters. What we have now is working and provides fair competition between charter schools and public schools in our county. There is no need to amend the state constitution to allow the state to make a decision on how we spend local tax dollars on education in Gwinnett. A few years ago, under the leadership of our school board and superintendent, Gwinnett County Public Schools won top national recognition for academic performance of a very diverse student population. Currently our school system is working well with charter schools in place and there is no reason for the state to tell us what we need to improve. Better the state should look at Gwinnett as a model for low performing school systems.
MP November 04, 2012 at 12:29 AM
Diana, your local board approved charters that they control and that are governed by the school board. Ivy, on the other hand, was independently governed, and the school board does NOT want to lose control. And by the way, Ivy's earnings when they WERE finally approved for a year by Gwinnett were about $4500 per pupil (district is at $7200 per pupil... Districts, like Gwinnett, who don't allow for independently operated charters governed by parents, community members, and teachers are exactly why this amendment is on the ballot. They are fighting tooth and nail to protect their own bureaucracy. Alvin Wilbanks is making in excess of $400,000 per year and has taken a raise 2 years in a row while teachers have been furloughed. There is a lot at stake having charter who operate more efficiently, on less funds, leaner staffs, and out perform....districts don't want to compete. Consider that You may also wish to look beyond district averages for performance. You have some very low performing schools in the district as well - a couple of the high schools with under 60% graduation rate. There is work to be done even in Gwinnett.


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