Georgia Amendment 1 Passes Easily

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    By a margin of 58 percent to 42 percent, Georgia’s Amendment 1 was passed by the state’s electorate.

    The amendment allows the state to set up charter schools when requested by local communities. The language of the amendment did not mandate or encourage charter schools, only allow them to be established when requested.

    “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?” asked the amendment.

    According to the AJC’s “Get Schooled” blog, “The assumption is that the Legislature will reconstitute the appointed commission that was in place before the state Supreme Court struck it down a year ago, setting the stage for this bitter amendment battle.”

    Prior to passing the amendment, anyone looking to set up a school in Georgia could seek a school charter from a local school board. If it was denied, an appeal could be made to the state Board of Education, which is composed entirely of gubernatorial appointees.

    In 2008, Georgia lawmakers created a separate state charter school commission to consider applications for charters. But opponents of that law challenged, eventually winning a divided Georgia Supreme Court ruling that said the state constitution restricts control of public education – and thus issuing charters – to local school boards.

    In response, Deal and charter school supporters earlier this year pushed the amendment to specifically allow the kind of state commission the court jettisoned. The passage of Amenment 1 willl likely re-establish the State Charter Schools Commission.

    There were more than 200 charter schools set up before the Supreme Court ruling. Schools that the original commission approved remained in operation despite the ruling.

    Many campaigned actively against the amenment, including the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP, saying it would strike a dramatic blow to already ailing Georgia public schools.

    “The NAACP maintains that a State Commission for Charter Schools would dilute voter power and take away local school board control over schools within their jurisdiction,” Dr. R. L. White, president of the Atlanta Branch of the NAACP wrote in a recent op-ed that appeared in the Atlanta Daily World.

    “These schools draw funding away from already under funded traditional public schools. Georgia has already experienced over 5 billion in austerity cuts for public schools over the last decade.”

    Jan Jones, a Georgia state representative disagreed.

    You see, real accountability can only reside with parents and students who live with the outcomes of a child’s educational success or failure,” Jones said in a pro-Amendment-1 op-ed published in the Daily World. “And parents know one-size-does-not-fit-all children, including in educating them to thrive in a challenging global economy.”

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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