Charter Schools Amendment Confuses Some, Cheers Others in Athens, Ga.

Part of the problem is the language of the amendment itself.


With the Nov. 6 election about a week away, some politically active Athenians still don’t know how they will vote on Proposed Constitutional Amendment 1, which appears near the end of the General Election ballot.

The statement of the proposed amendment’s impact, and the posing of the yes-or-no question, is so confusing that some voters mistakenly believe that a “no” vote   would undermine – or possibly even destroy – charter schools that are an asset to many communities.

In fact, this is not true.

What the amendment would do is establish a new state-level authority for approving charter school proposals that have been turned by local authorities.  

That’s hard to discern in the ballot wording: “Provides for improving student achievement and parental involvement through more public charter school options.”

Nor is the creation of a new state mechanism apparent in the phrasing of the ballot question:  “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities? “

What voters face on Nov. 6 is the choice between allowing or blocking a new group in Atlanta that will be able to regulate and control local charter schools at the state-level  “without the consent of constituents,” said Denise Spangler, Professor of Mathematics Education at the University of Georgia and member of the Clarke-County School Board.

Spangler’s remarks came during an Oct. 9 forum that brought approximately 80 people to the Clarke Central High School auditorium.

Participants exhibited strong feelings on both sides of the issue, although most in attendance seemed to be leaning against the proposed amendment.

One woman, apparently fearing that local voices would be silenced if a new state commission had the power to set up charter schools, stood outside with duct tape across her mouth and a sign reading “Clarke Country Parent”.

An abundance of Georgia citizens also filled the Auditorium to ask questions about the “yes” side of the issue and requested responses of those who support the proposed amendment.  

Regina Quick, local attorney and unopposed Republican nominee for the 117th district, voiced support for “all types of” charter schools, but as the purpose of government intends, she sees nothing wrong with letting voters decide whether there should be a new state commission on charter schools, or whether control should remain entirely in the hands of local authorities.  “It should be up to the voters to decide,” Quick adds. 

Keith Heard, 20-year veteran of the Georgia House of Representatives who was defeated in the Democratic primary in July, also said he supports charter schools.

“It’s major any time you want to make changes to the Constitution,” he said, adding that voters face a choice “about who’s going to govern our schools.” 

This amendment, if passed, could affect up to 1.6 million Georgia Public School students. 

Professional associations representing teachers and schools have lined up against the proposed constitutional amendment.

If it passes, the Georgia Association of Educators fears teaching jobs will be threatened, working conditions will worsen and salaries and benefits will further deteriorate.  Passage could mean a shorter school year, bigger classes, and fewer resources to help Georgia students succeed, according to the “VOTE NO On Amendment 1” handouts being passed around the Clarke High School Auditorium, October 9. 

The bill will pull money from the education budget that would have gone to local school districts state-wide with locally elected school board members allocating tax money, fears Tim Mullen, president of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators. 

Not everyone spoke against the proposed amendment. 

“We need to change the paradigm and change in the status quo,” said Jim Geiser, who moved to Athens about seven years ago and who unsuccessfully ran for the school board.

Public schools are in poor shape and passing the amendment will lead to “better educated students and the opportunity to allow the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit that well-run charter schools can bring,” Geiser said. “It’s the right thing to do for kids.”    

A summary of Amendment 1 is available here




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Rebecca McCarthy November 01, 2012 at 01:26 AM
If you see the threads on other stories, you will realize that dissenting opinions are often prevalent. There's something going on with our system so that you need to be logged in to see your own comments. Superstorm Sandy has had an affect on our large computer network, too, but those problems are clearing up. Thanks for posting.
Rebecca McCarthy November 01, 2012 at 01:28 AM
So, Athens Mama, you have a child in a public school? Jim Geiser was quoted properly; what you are saying is that he wasn't properly identified. He didn't tell the reporter about his work in Louisiana, but it sounds extensive. Thanks for posting.
Kids First November 01, 2012 at 11:51 AM
Vote Yes. Why? Parents need to know if the traditional school isn't working for them....and that can be a great school, they have at least one other option. The writer says that PAGE is concerned for teacher jobs. Excuse me, teachers are needed in public charter schools too. And remember the local money stays behind. I heard at one forum that Cherokee County lost about 800 students to the state approved charter school there but instead of losing teachers, hired two. There is no sound reason for the establishment to fight this amendment. It's good for families in Georgia.
Athens Mama November 02, 2012 at 03:08 AM
Yes, I have a child in a public school.
Athens Mama November 02, 2012 at 03:14 AM
In regards to the quotes by Jim Geiser, a slight tidbit of opposition was saved for the end of the article. Mr. Geiser is presented only as wanting to "change the paradigm and change in the status quo" and having unsuccessfully run for the school board. Ha ha. I think that an unbiased author might have presented him and the value of his opinions a little differently and extensively. Nothing really about why advocates of the amendment might validate such advocacy.....Nothing really about advocates admitting that there is no perfect solution....Just a whole lot of text about the evils of the amendment. So much journalism about opinions of the effects that more charters would have on local districts, yet so little journalism on eye witness accounts of those events that are going on daily in our local public schools. The good, the great, the bad, the ugly. Where is that journalism?


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