Supporters, opponents plan public forum for Ga. charter school amendment

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News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012

EVANS, Ga. -- Georgia voters head to the polls in just six weeks to cast their ballots for big decisions on the local and national level. One state issue on the ballot is the amendment involving charter schools in the state.

Supporters want to give a state board power to approve charter schools, but many local school leaders are against it, saying they deserve to control what happens in their district.

"It's really a feel good issue, choice for parents, good school choices -- everybody wants that -- but you can do that with the laws the way they are now. We don't have to amend the Georgia Constitution for that," said Columbia County Board of Education Chairperson Regina Buccafusco.

Buccafusco is ready to debate her point in a public forum next month.

"You can't make a good choice unless it's an educated choice," she said.

Many against the amendment say the real issue is that it's stripping local districts of their power.

"I'm not opposed to charter schools at all, some of them are very effective. I think they parallel public schools, some are really good and some are not really good," Buccafusco said.

Right now, local school boards control the fate of charter schools, but supporters want power given to the state, too.

"This amendment will create charter schools that are approved by a commission in Atlanta," Buccafusco said.

"Really the whole purpose of the amendment is to allow parents some kind of secondary review, if they do have a high quality application that's turned down," said Jerri Nims Rooker with The Brighter Georgia Education Coalition.

While there are only a handful of charter schools in our area, many charter schools are focused in Atlanta.

"Unfortunately, if we look at data over the past three years, local school boards have tended in some instances to turn down applications that were actually very high quality," Rooker said.

Supporters argue this gives parents more choice in their child's education.

"The voices in support are typically parents," Rooker said. "The voices we're really hearing in opposition don't tend to be parents, don't tend to be individual teachers, it tends to be superintendents and others who are at the administrative level."

This is really just the tip of the iceberg with the issue; performance comparisons and funding are other hot topics here. As we mentioned, at least one public forum is in the works for sometime next month. We will keep you updated when we have a date and time.

We expect to hear more from people on both sides of the issue as Election Day draws closer.

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