Valdosta Daily Times

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November 8, 2012

Charter School Amendment passes

VALDOSTA — In a race as close as the presidential election, voters in Georgia said yes to Amendment One by a slim margin of 58.50 percent.

Amendment One, known as the charter school amendment, was the hot-button topic in Georgia this election as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that gives the state Legislature the right to create special schools known as charter schools.

The amendment was supported by Gov. Nathan Deal, and million of dollars from various businesses and agencies in and out of the state were contributed to support the campaign.

Despite both the Valdosta and the Lowndes County Boards of Education establishing and signing a joint resolution against the amendment, the vote in Lowndes County was 18,606 for yes and 17,619 for no.

“Of course I was disappointed that it passed because I didn't feel like it was the right thing for the state at this time,” said superintendent of Valdosta City Schools Dr. Bill Cason.

Both the superintendents for the Valdosta City and Lowndes County Schools feel a deceptive ballot question prompted the amendment's passing.

“I think it was passed primarily because the ballot question was worded in such a way that it sounded like a great thing,” said Cason. “I think the ballot question was the key to that. I wish it had been more straightforward.”

Superintendent for Lowndes County Schools Wes Taylor agreed.

“I have had a number of people say to me that after they heard about it, that is not what they intended," said Taylor. "After reading it, their vote on yes is what they felt would help public education . . . they mistakenly voted yes."

While passage of the amendment is a huge boost to charter school proponents, it delivered a big blow to advocates of the public education system in Georgia who are concerned about the funding mechanism of the amendment.

While both Cason and Taylor are not concerned about a charter school popping up anytime soon in Valdosta or Lowndes County, they are concerned with the impact to an already depleted state budget.

"We were surprised at the outcome but we're not concerned necessarily about charter schools appearing in Lowndes County," said Taylor. "We are concerned with the impact it may have on state funding."

Aside from challenging the funding mechanism, many opponents to the amendment felt the measure was an unnecessary change to a system that would essentially be nothing more than taxation without representation.

Currently, local school boards can already approve charter school applications and those denied may contest it at the state Board of Education.

The amendment was viewed by some in public education as a waste of taxpayer resources, but most of all, took control away from a local governing body.

It was the issue of control that prompted State Representatives such as Jason Shaw to vote against the bill.

"It boils down to who has the authority to get the yea or nay on the charter school appointment," said Shaw in an October edition of the Times. “I think the local school boards should have a voice in this because it will affect them financially."

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