The bulk of that money comes from a Wal-Mart heiress and from companies that operate charter schools. Meanwhile, a committee working to oppose the amendment is funded entirely from Georgians, including many educators and administrators.
The committees are campaigning over an amendment to the state constitution that voters will decide during the general election. If passed, it would essentially restore a process that the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in which a panel of appointees in Atlanta would be allowed to grant charters to schools over the objections of elected boards of education in the district.
Charter schools are public schools that receive taxpayer funds but are exempt from certain rules in exchange for certain student-achievement targets. The overturned law had diverted funds to the charter schools that would have otherwise gone to the local districts’ traditional schools. Under the amendment, if passed, the state would supply all of the funding for charter schools established by the state.
Supporters of the amendment, including Gov. Nathan Deal, say it would give parents more choices about where their children are educated. Opponents, including State Superintendent of Schools John Barge, warn that it would drain money from traditional schools at a time when weak tax collections have left their budgets shrunken for years.
The committee organized to campaign for the amendment, Families for Better Public Schools reported Thursday to the state ethics commission that it had raised $487,000. It has spent $72,000 and has $414,000 on hand.
Thirty percent of its donors and 96 percent of its money comes from outside Georgia. Alice Walton of Bentonville, Arkansas, topped the list with a $250,000 donation. K12 Inc. of Herndon, Va., gave $100,000 for the effort, and Charter Schools USA of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., contributed $50,000.
On the other side, Vote SMART! No to State-Controlled Schools! has raised just $81,000, all from Georgians. It has spent $76,000 and has just $5,000 in the bank. Its largest donation, $10,000, came from Ron Hinkle of Norcross who is the chief financial officer of Corus360, an information-technology company.