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Leaders Debate Charter School Amendment

Proponents and opponents of the state charter school amendment debate its merits.

Supporters and opponents of Georgia's charter school amendment, on the ballot this November, pleaded their cases at a voter info forum held at Johns Creek High School, Tuesday evening.

Amendment 1, or HR 1162, would give a state-appointed commission authority to authorize and fund state charter schools if voters approve the legislation, or vote "Yes," on Nov. 6. 

Supporters of the amendment say it creates another avenue for charter start-ups; charter applicants have more flexibility on where to locate; and parents will have more local control.

Opponents of the legislation say it creates another level of bureaucracy; state charter students would get more funding than students in traditional or local charter schools; and parents will not see their choices significantly increased.

Representing the "No" vote at Tuesday's forum were Appen Newspapers' Hatcher Hurd, PTA consultant and education policy specialist Sally Fitzgerald, and North Fulton PTA Legislation VP Diane Jacobi.

"[The amendment] takes decision-making away from the citizenry," Fitzgerald said.

Representing the "Yes" vote were Gwinnett businessman BJ Van Gundy, State Rep. Lynne Riley (R-District 50) and State Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R-District 24).

"[The amendment] is really about providing educational opportunities for some kids in Georgia who are in failing schools," Dudgeon said.

Sharyl Dawes, co-president of the JCHS PTSA, which sponsored the event, said she was thankful that while the Georgia PTA's official position on the amendment is "No," the organization allowed both sides to present their cases Tuesday night.

Dawes said that the amendment is currently running 50-50 in the polls and is not running along party, gender or race lines.

"You have to make up your own minds," Dawes said, advising the audience to do its "due diligence."

See accompanying video for statements from both sides. Visit GeorgiaHope2012.org and VoteSmartGeorgia.com to learn more about the amendment's supporters and opponents respectively.

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