Majority of voters in Baldwin County and across Georgia appear to be in favor of giving the state legislature the right to create special schools without prior approval by local boards of education.
Based on unofficial results Tuesday night, the charter school amendment, Amendment 1 on the general election ballot, received 57 percent (8,660 votes) from Baldwin County voters in support of the referendum while 43 percent (6,557 votes) opposed. With 128 precincts reporting statewide Tuesday at press time, 57 percent of voters supported the ballot measure, with 43 percent voting no or opposed.
The controversial charter school amendment on the ballot officially read: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”
Charter schools are independent public schools supported by public funds but have greater freedom from state rules and regulations than traditional public schools. Charter schools are free to hire and fire personnel, design curriculum and promote specific values. A charter school must negotiate a contract, or charter, usually with a local school district or charter authorizer designated by the state. Each charter may vary because each state has different education laws, and each charter school is designed to be unique in focus or student clientele. However, all contracts describe school goals, how the school will be run, the amount of public money it will receive and the degree of freedom it will be given.
In a May 2011 ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court, the court ruled that the state’s involvement in the establishment of public charter schools was unconstitutional as a way to give Georgia families more educational options. That led Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal to push the amendment that would override the court.
State Superintendent John Barge led educator groups in opposition to the amendment, saying it would lessen local control and siphon public money away from existing schools.
Control over charters now rests mostly with local school boards, though operators who are denied can appeal to the state Board of Education.
Georgia has about 200 charter schools already. They will not be immediately affected by Tuesday’s election outcome.
The second Constitutional amendment listed on the ballot, read “Shall the Constitution be amended so as to provide for a reduction in the state’s operating costs by allowing the General Assembly to authorize certain state agencies to enter into multi-year rental agreements?”
Of the Georgia voters, 63 percent (1.9 million voters) were in favor of how the state will rent buildings for its use while 37 percent (1.1 million votes) were opposed. Sixty-six percent (9,478 votes) of Baldwin County voters were in favor and 34 percent (4,961 votes) were opposed.
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