ATLANTA — Supporters of an amendment to the Georgia Constitution to empower the state to grant charters to local schools start the campaign with a majority on their side, according to the first survey made public.
A poll conducted March 29-30 and released Friday by the Georgia Charter Schools Association shows that 58 percent of those surveyed said they would support the amendment when an interviewer read them its wording. But firm support is soft, with 38 percent saying definitely yes and 20 percent saying probably.
On the other hand, 23 percent said they would vote no, while 19 percent were undecided.
The poll of 600 likely voters conducted by McLaughlin & Associates of Alexandria, Va., has a margin of error of 4 percent.
Voters will decide the amendment during the general election in November.
“We think more public-school options are something parents want to see, so we’re excited about the initial outcome,” said Mark Peevy, the campaign manager for the pro-amendment group Families for Better Public Schools.
Peevy said even though the legislative debate divided along rural-urban lines, the survey showed no clear geographic line among voters.
Age was a clearer distinction. More voters whose children were close to school age were supportive. Those younger than 55 supported it 62 percent vs. 54 percent for those older than 55.
Critics of the amendment say the wording the General Assembly put on the ballot is slanted to sway voters.
It says, “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?”
That makes the initial poll just a snapshot of where opinions are before the opposition campaign launches, notes Margaret Ciccarelli, legislative director with the Professional Association of Georgia Educators.
“The amendment, the ballot language, was intentionally written to be persuasive to voters,” she said. “I’m not surprised to see numbers like that in support of it. ... The amendment was confusingly misleading.”
Coalitions have formed to campaign for and against the amendment. Pushing passage are Families for Better Public Schools, the Modern Georgia Education Coalition and the Georgia Charter Schools Association. Working against it are Vote Smart Georgia, made up of groups that represent teachers, school board members, the Parent Teacher Association and others.