Officials weigh in on controversial charter school amendment - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Officials weigh in on controversial charter school amendment

(WTVM) -

In November, Georgia voters will decide whether to change the state constitution.

The amendment gives local communities the power to start charter schools without the approval of local school boards. 

Five years ago, a new law allowed a state-appointed commission to do just that. Then last year, the Georgia Supreme Court reversed the law, calling it unconstitutional. 

However, rewriting the record is raising some eyebrows.

There are about 110 public charter schools spread across the Peach State. Three are in Muscogee County, which were all converted to charter schools.

An amendment on the November ballot seeks to have start-up charter schools spouting up throughout Georgia's community at the discretion of a special commission.

Tony Lowden, executive director at Stone Academy in Macon, says this gives parents options for their child to attend better schools.

"When you have a child that has dreams and hopes in the future, and that child is trapped in a failing school system and a teacher is failing in the school, we can't fire them because of tenure," said Lowden.

State reports say charter schools overall don't perform any better than traditional schools and in some cases are failing.

"Yes, but that failing charter school will close if it doesn't meet state standards, but try closing a public school or firing a bad teacher, it's almost impossible," Lowden said.

Muscogee County School Board chair Cathy Williams says she adamantly opposes the amendment along with members from the black legislative caucus and several state educational groups.

"Without the controls, we are putting those kids in danger of not getting the education that we all require," said Williams.

Supporters like Tony Lowden say state money will follow a child that goes from a public school to a charter school, but by the same token says this new amendment will not take money from existing schools or increase property taxes.

Copyright 2012 WTVM. All rights reserved.

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