Cooke voted for the charter school legislation that set up the Nov. 6 ballot amendment and said he plans to personally vote for the amendment.
“This all came about due to a state Supreme Court case,” Cooke said. “All we’re doing is putting it back to the way it was before the Supreme Court case.”
He said no state or local funds will be diverted from the current school system when a child leaves to go to a state charter school.
“Say my child was taken out of a public school locally and put in a public charter school,” Cooke said. “The school my child left still gets the local money that was with her and now she is over in another state fund, in a different line item in the budget, not any educational funds that went to the school system she left. The way I see it, that school system will not have to provide as much, but will still get the local portion.
“So I think, all in all, it was a good bill,” Cooke said. “It was thoroughly vetted and is going to provide for choice in education, which is always better for the children. I will be supporting it, and personally voting for it (amendment), as will my wife.”
Cooke’s opponent, Democrat Pat Rhudy of Carrollton, opposes the charter school amendment.
“The problem with the amendment is that now if you want a charter school, you go to the county school board and ask for it,” she said. “It the county sees fit and passes it, they’ll let you do it. This amendment will take it out of county school boards’ hands. I don’t think pulling the cream of the crop out of the school system does anything to help public schools. Charter schools are ways to cast money from public schools and public hands to private hands.”
Rhudy said federal government funds to public schools are based on per student, per diem basis.
“That means if you remove a child from school, part of the money coming from the federal government for that child does not go to that school that day,” she said. “Money goes to the school the child is attending.
“If you have $28 billion spending on education, and the state is spending all the money it can afford on education, why don’t you check in what’s left over in that line item that doesn’t go to public education?” Rhudy asked. “Let’s see if we can fix the schools (with that).”
District 69 Rep. Randy Nix of LaGrange supported the legislation that put the issue on the ballot.
“What people need to realize is this is not taking money from public to private,” Nix said. “This is a choice of public schools. The only difference is that parents decide. They make the choice to send their child to that school rather than the government assigning that child to a school. I think it’s a good idea when it comes down to local control where local control is at home with parents and children.”
Nix said Gov. Deal said money for the charter schools will come from funds other than what’s going to traditional schools. He said about $480 million would go to charter schools.
“Over the next four years, we’ll spend over $28 billion on public education, and if you do your math, I think that’s about 1.7 percent. If you break it down per student, that’s less than $100 per student,” he said.
Nix said if a charter school fails to perform, it will be closed.
“That’s unlike a government school that will never be closed,” he added.
Nix’s opponent, Democrat Herbert Giles of Carrollton, could not be reached for comment Wednesday, and did not attend a League of Women Voters forum on Monday that featured the House candidates.
Rhudy favors the state implementing the Affordable Health Care Act.
“One of the greatest burdens on business and government is the cost of health care,” she said. “The only way you can alleviate the cost of health care is to spread it out. That’s what the Affordable Health Care Act provides for. It is not near the bogeyman that it is being perceived to be. It has plenty of free market opportunities in it and it goes a long way toward addressing a serious need in this country.”
Nix said he doesn’t support the health care act and believes Georgia should be able to assert its right to choose its way of handling health care.
“It’s proven the money is not there,” he said. “This is going to drive Georgia broke, drive the entire country broke, the amount of money it’s going to take to implement this.”
Nix said he agrees with Rhudy that health care should be available to people, but he doesn’t believe in government-mandated systems. He said it will deplete state and federal resources.
“I think we should go back and re-think and look at some market options that may be there,” he said. “I think there are some better ways to do it. I think the state of Georgia should look at everything very, very carefully and see where we stand as a sovereign state to make our own decisions. I don’t like the Affordable Health Care Act and its mandates on most citizens.”
Cooke said he opposed the health care act on constitutional grounds.
“There is nowhere in the Constitution that gives the federal government the ability to make a person here in Georgia, me, you or anybody else, purchase a product, whether it be public or private. Our freedom of liberty is completely being eroded. The government we know will be over with if we can employ things in the Affordable Health Care Act.”
He added that the state can’t afford the Medicaid increases proposed and said it would bankrupt the state in a year. He said that the money that the federal government is going to give to start the programs will run out in two years.
“As for health care exchanges, the federal government cannot employ this piece of legislation without our help,” he said. “There’s no way we need to be involved in health care exchange.”