Local News

November 4, 2012

Voters to decide fate of controversial charter schools amendment

The charter schools amendment on Tuesday’s ballot will be resolved when voters approve or reject the proposal after several weeks of heated debate, numerous opinion pieces and at least two lawsuits.

There was also the cancellation of a Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce breakfast that was to focus on the amendment and include the superintendents of the Dalton and Whitfield County school systems.

The local chamber’s decision to cancel the breakfast was a sign of the “tense legal climate,” said school officials.

“There has been a lot of controversy from state leadership, including Attorney General Sam Olens’ warning to school officials about the way they talk about the amendment,” Chamber President and CEO Brian Anderson said. “We don’t want to put our local officials in a bad situation. There’s uncertainty right now about what they can and cannot say between personal time and on-the-clock time in regards to the ballot.”

Dalton teacher Beverly Hedges and an Atlanta reverend filed a lawsuit last week claiming the language on the ballot leading into the amendment is purposely misleading. The preamble says the amendment “provides for improving student achievement and parental involvement through more public charter school options.”

“It doesn’t tell you that it allows for-profit companies to manage charter schools. It doesn’t tell you these decisions will be made by an unelected commission appointed by the governor,” Hedges said.

The ballot question itself reads, “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”

If the amendment becomes law it will allow groups to propose new charter schools — publicly-funded, self-reliant schools that can see some education requirements waived and replace them with alternative teaching plans — to a seven-member state committee appointed by the governor. Currently, groups have to go through the local school board, or an appeals process at the state level if the school board rejects the proposal.

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