The candidates in the Nov. 6 special Republican primary are Mike Dugan, a Carrollton general contractor; former House Rep. Bill Hembree, a Winston insurance agent; Jim Naughton, a Carrollton business consultant; and Glenn Richardson, a Hiram attorney and former speaker of the Georgia House.
Also on stage Tuesday night in a forum sponsored by the Carroll County Tea Party was James Camp, a Libertarian candidate from Temple, who qualified to run against the Republican primary winner in the Jan. 8 special general election.
Naughton called the charter school amendment issue a “big question,” saying he is still deciding on it.
“I talked this over with some people Friday and we kind of went round and round on it,” he said. “I support school choice and I think charter schools are a viable option. Are they the whole answer? I don’t know.”
Naughton said he’s talked with people on the local boards of education, people with the state system and numerous business owners.
“I’m still feeling my way on this, to be perfectly frank,” he said. “I think we have a pretty good school system in Carroll, Paulding and Douglas counties. I worry about the money that will be drawn off public schools and I’m still deciding on this.”
Hembree, who resigned his House seat this month to campaign for the Senate, said he fully supports the charter school amendment and he will vote for it, if elected.
“No local funds will be used for state charter schools, that’s in the bill,” Hembree said. “There will be no reduction in state funding for local schools. The local schools can still create charter schools.”
He said charter schools would have to be reviewed by local boards before they are submitted to the state.
“The state role is to provide a checks and balance system,” he said.
Hembree said he believes in public, private, homes and charter schools, and the online option of virtual schools.
“For every kid, there’s different options,” he said. “That’s the way it needs to be. In the state of Georgia, we’re just trying to get those options and make them available.”
Dugan said he favors the charter school amendment because the more options kids have, the more likely they are to avoid being part of the 33 percent who drop out.
“One of the things I will tell you,” he said. “When I sat down with the superintendent of Carroll County Schools and school board members in Douglas County, I told them that charter schools are so good because regulations have been removed and they have great flexibility.
“I said, ‘Why don’t you do that with traditional schools?’ If we’re over-regulating traditional schools, at some point they become ineffective.”
Dugan said he’s pro-charter and supports the amendment. He also gave a plug for career academies.
“They’re awesome institutions,” he said. “It’s a hands-on, skill driven learning model. It’s a school where you actually have a job skill when you come out or you can go to the technical college and you’re ready to make an immediate impact.”
Camp said he’s pro-charter schools and pro-school choice, “but I’m kind of on the fence about the amendment.”
“Does it give local control?” he asked, “or does it create a state bureaucracy that will control charter schools?”
Camp said he favors a voucher system in which parents have additional school choice.
“The money in a voucher system follows the child,” he said. “It will apply a free market competition in schools. That will cause schools to strive for excellence.”
Camp added that parents need to take some responsibility for education and took a poke at problem students.
“Educators have to lower their standards of curriculum to engage children who don’t want to be there or interrupt class,” he said. “That causes those who want to learn to miss out on the opportunity. I believe educators should be given control over the classroom so children who want to learn can excell.”
Richardson said he counted three of the other candidates on the fence and said it’s an issue where you can’t be on the fence.
“I intend to vote yes,” he said. “I support every time you give a parent a choice on how to educate their child. I hear cries of educators who say we’re going to take money away from schools. It’s not about money, it’s about kids. Why would you vote against parents starting a charter school?”
He said the General Assembly tried passing a charter school law, but the courts ruled that money couldn’t be given to charter schools without a constitutional amendment.
“It’s not an attack on educators, but a chance to give parents a choice,” he said.
The District 30 seat became vacant Hamrick resigned Sept. 10 to accept a judicial appointment by Gov. Nathan Deal to the Coweta Circuit Superior Court. He filled the court position of Judge William E. Lee, who retired May 1.