The controversial amendment concerned charter schools in Georgia and the way they will be approved or denied.
The majority of voters said they’d like the state to re-establish a commission to review charter school applications, with 42 percent saying they’d like the process to remain the way it is.
Georgians also appeared to have voted in favor of the second amendment on the ballot. That amendment, which had huge bipartisan support but was mostly ignored by voters, concerned state agencies’ authorization to enter into multi-year lease agreements.
The amendment was approved with 63.4 percent of voters saying “yes,” with 93 percent of precincts reporting at press time.
Carroll County citizens were in sync with other Georgians on the amendments. For the charter school amendment, 52.9 percent of county voters said “yes,” with 47.1 percent voting “no.” In the rental agreement amendment, 60.1 percent voted in favor, with 39.9 percent voting in opposition.
Votes opposed to the charter school amendment won over those in favor in 15 county precincts, or half of them. Also, more “no” votes were cast in Carroll County on Election Day than votes in favor — by a margin of 18 votes. The votes in favor won in the county mainly because of early voting, accounting for a 2,000-vote lead.
With approval of Amendment 1, the state will create a commission that can approve charter schools in local communities, even if local school boards have previously denied the application. Supporters of the amendment believed this is necessary to bypass school boards that resist competition; opponents fear a loss of local control and a shift of money from traditional public schools.
The commission will most likely be formed early next year, with appointees from Gov. Nathan Deal and other elected officials.
Previously, an application denied by the local school board could be taken to the state Board of Education for another chance at approval.
Leslie McPherson, a Villa Rica resident and member of the Carroll County Tea Party Association, has been campaigning in favor of the amendment for months.
“I am elated,” the amendment supporter said. “This means more school choice for parents, and for those people who said the sky would fall if this passed, they will see that the sky is not falling.”
Superintendents statewide, as well as state educational associations, came out in opposition of the amendment, with both school boards in Carroll County adopting resolutions against the amendment.
“We believe that finding innovative and creative ways to teach students is important, and this doesn’t change that,” Carroll County Schools Superintendent Scott Cowart said Tuesday night. “Charter schools are certainly an option, and none of the local superintendents are opposed to charter schools or choice. We just feel that this was not the appropriate way to do this.”
Cowart said he felt charter schools work best when “generated” through local communities, with little input from the state, which the amendment allows for.
“We will continue to work and look at other ways to improve our students’ education,” Cowart said. “We’re committed to working for students in Carroll County. It’s all about the kids.”
Several critics of the amendment have said the preamble to the amendment was written deceptively to goad uninformed voters into a “yes” vote.
The amendment question’s preamble read, “[p]rovides for improving student achievement and parental involvement through more public charter school options.”
“Who would say ‘no’ to that?” said Tom Upchurch, a former Carrollton City Schools superintendent and chairman of Vote SMART, the anti-amendment campaign. “We tried to get important information to the voters, and I applaud all the leaders who tried to do that, but I guess we didn’t get the facts into enough people’s hands.”
Upchurch said he is not worried that a “huge impact” will be felt in next year’s state funding to public schools — his concerns are more long-term.
“We are worried that the state will continue these cuts to public schools,” Upchurch said. “I don’t think any kind of huge impact will be felt in the first year.”
A charter school is a publicly funded school that’s exempted from some state and local rules so it can try more creative ways of educating children. Some charter schools operate within local school board governance (such as the College and Career Academy in Carroll County Schools), and some operate outside it.
Representatives from the State Properties Commission said the second amendment would save taxpayers $66 million over the next 10 years.
The amendment was proposed to voters to allow state agencies the flexibility to enter into multi-year rental agreements — prior to the change, since the state does its budget year to year, the agencies are not legally allowed to enter into more than a one-year lease.
Opponents of the amendment said it could mean getting stuck in long-term bad deals or could open the door to corrupt patronage that’s harder to end.