Both sides of charter school amendment rally voters - CBS46 News

Both sides of charter school amendment rally voters

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ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) -

Supporters and opponents on a controversial charter school amendment are trying to rally voters with Election Day just five days away.

Amendment One would grant the state more power to create charter schools.

Ministers and civil rights leaders, who may agree at other times on other issues, are at odds over the amendment.

Supporters say it would give parents more choices in their children's education.

Opponents argue the amendment would strip power from local school boards.

The amendment would reaffirm the state's power to create and fund charter schools, power the state board of education already has.

CBS Atlanta asked Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan, one of the amendment's co-sponsors, why Georgia needs a constitutional amendment to reaffirm power the state already has.

Morgan said Georgia cannot afford to leave the authority over charter schools solely in the hands of the local boards of education.

"We want it clear in the constitution that the state has a shared responsibility in setting education policy and in creating schools, in this case, charter schools," Morgan said.

Morgan and a group of pastors from across Georgia Thursday morning urged voters to say yes to the amendment.

Rev. Benford Stellmacher of Covenant Ministries said "once you give control to the state, charter schools won't have any problems with local politics to establish charter schools."

The Georgia Supreme Court last year ruled that the State Charter Commission, which was separate from the State Board of Education, was unconstitutional.

The amendment's companion measure, House Bill 797, would establish a new charter school commission.

Sen. Vincent Fort, who opposes the amendment, and members of the Georgia NAACP urged voters to say no to the amendment.

Under the two measures, the governor, the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the house would appoint charter school commissioners.

When asked what is wrong with a constitutional amendment reaffirming the state's power, Fort said it concentrates too much power over education and the allocation of its funds into just a few hands.

"This is about whether (Gov.) Nathan Deal and unelected bureaucrats will be able to override the choices of local school boards," Fort said.

Brian Robinson, a spokesman for Deal responded, "we're not breaking new ground. We are going back to a policy that was already in place before the Supreme Court wrong headedly struck down (the Charter School Commission)."

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