Troup County school officials are encouraging voters to look carefully at a referendum on the ballot.
Amendment 1 on Georgia charter schools on the Nov. 6 ballot, is really not about charter schools, said Tina Duckett, director of communications for schools, but about who approves them and how they are funded. The Troup County School System is not opposed to charter schools, she said, but leaders are opposed to the state creating a separate bureaucracy to approve them.
“The ballot referendum to appear before voters next month reads, ‘Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?’ This ballot item is really not necessary,” Duckett said. “Applications for charter schools can currently be presented to local boards of education. If the application is denied, the applicant can appeal the decision to the State Board of Education.”
Since fiscal year 2003, the state has cut $53.5 million of Quality Basic Education funding for public education in the Troup County School System, Duckett said. As a result, the school district has closed campuses, reduced positions, implemented furlough days and cut budgets down to “daunting” levels.
“At a time when the state fails to adequately fund existing public schools, why is there such an effort to create a parallel system of charter schools that would be approved by an appointed state commission not accountable to the voters,” she asked. “The committee campaigning for the passage of the charter school amendment receives nearly all of its funding from out of state, including for-profit companies that operate charter schools. A number of these companies have also contributed to the campaigns of several state political leaders.”
School officials urged voters to visit two websites for additional information: votesmartgeorgia.com and gsba.com.
Although school systems across Georgia face a lawsuit over allegations they are using public funds to oppose a campaign issue, Duckett said that school officials “have encouraged employees and stakeholders to understand the language in the ballot referendum, Amendment 1, to research the reason for the Amendment, to make an informed decision, and to vote. Campaign materials were not developed.”