Two support it, two oppose it and one who supports the charter schools, but not the legislation.
In support of charter schools and the legislation are candidates Terry Turner (District 1) and Bob Pinckney (District 3). Opposing them were incumbent Dr. Bernice Brooks (District 1) and Rob Cleveland (District 1).
Incumbent Chris Gammon (District 3) said he supports charter schools, but not the amendment.
Voters will get a chance to decide in November whether to change the Georgia Constitution so state officials can create more charter schools. The referendum will read: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”
If the amendment is approved by voters, a charter school would be able to be approved by a state-level entity. In essence, this would bypass a local school board’s decision on the building of a charter school, and transfer funding reserved for students by enrollment to the charter schools they attend.
Candidates were asked if they support or oppose the proposed amendment and its wording during a League of Women Voters candidate forum Tuesday night.
Turner, an instructor in the commercial truck driving program at West Georgia Technical College, said he supports charter schools because of his experience in private education.
“For you to come to my class, you’ve got to pay money,” he said. “It’s up to citizens to decide what our children do. It’s not up to some bureaucrat or someone who was elected. If we have a charter school and we do a good job, guess what, we’ll get all the kids.”
Turner also brought up the amount of students whose families are sending them to city school systems instead of staying in the county.
“We have citizens now who send their kids to city of Carrollton schools, city of Bremen schools because the Carroll County system has failed,” he said. “And if we can do anything to make it better for our citizens and our children, then so be it.”
Cleveland said he opposes charter schools because of the effect they have on students becoming well-rounded.
“When charter schools are over, students are going out in the real world and deal with people who were in public education,” he said. “I’ve seen kids who have been home-schooled or have gone to private schools, and sometimes they don’t adapt to society as well as those from the public education system.”
Cleveland also said he opposes charter schools because he is “a big public education fan.”
“I’m 100 percent behind public education,” he said. “That’s why I chose to be a public educator for 23 years. I am not for charter schools.”
Pinckney, a retired superintendent from Long Island, N.Y., said he supports charter schools because he believes in competition.
“If the public system is doing the job it’s supposed to do, then people will not leave to try the charter school,” he said. “Competition is good and healthy.”
However, Pinckney also said finding what’s vague about the legislation is important.
“If there’s something wrong with the legislation, then let’s get involved with our legislators and get that corrected,” he said. “But let’s not deny an opportunity for children and parents.”
Gammon fell somewhat on the fence on the question, saying he supports charter schools but not the wording of the proposed legislation.
“I oppose the amendment as it’s written up,” he said. “It takes control away from the local communities and gives an appointed group in Atlanta control to make these schools whether the people in our county want them or not.”
Gammon also said he has problems with the funding of the schools.
“The funding for that bill is very vague,” he said. “It’s not stated how much will be funded or how it will be funded.”
Brooks she opposes the amendment on the basis of funding, but she opposes charter schools as well.
“Charter schools will take away funding from public schools,” she said. “There is only one pot of money for education in Georgia, so this money is going to be split, not only for the public schools, but for the charters as well.”
Brooks cited her hesitations with paying taxes for charter schools.
“I do not feel we, as taxpayers, should fund private entities like charter schools,” she said.
In the District 1 election, voters will decide among incumbent Brooks, Cleveland and Turner. The District 3 vote will be between incumbent Gammon and Pinckney.
The elected District 1 member will represent Villa Rica Elementary, Glanton-Hindsman Elementary, Villa Rica Middle and Villa Rica High. The District 3 winner will represent Sand Hill Elementary, Ithica Elementary and Bay Springs Middle. The election is July 31.
The school system currently has a charter school in Carrollton, the College and Career Academy. The academy is currently undergoing some renovations to add mobile classrooms to its parking lot for the reorganization of the county’s alternative school, Crossroads Academy.
The charter schools referendum was approved by the Georgia Senate in March after a shaky path through the state House of Representatives as House Resolution 1162.
The house resolution was in response to a 2011 Georgia Supreme Court decision, which ruled that the Charter School Commission created by the Legislature last year was unconstitutional.
The proposed legislation can be viewed in its entirety at www.legis.ga.gov.