Tight race on Georgia charter school amendment, poll says

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ATLANTA — Georgia voters appear closely divided on whether to approve changes to the state constitution during next month’s election so the state can create more charter schools, according to a recent poll by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The newspaper poll conducted this week showed 45 percent of likely voters would support the amendment while 42 percent were opposed to it. An additional 13 percent said they did not know about the amendment or did not answer the question.

Those results suggest it is a close race. The poll had a margin of error of just more than 5 percentage points, meaning it is possible that opponents were in the majority.

Georgia lawmakers approved the amendment this year after the state Supreme Court found that a legislatively created commission was unconstitutional because it approved new charter schools over the objection of local school boards. Charter schools receive public funding but are freed from regulations like class size and teacher pay schedules in exchange for promises of improved student performance.

Voters will decide next month whether to approve the proposed change to the state constitution.

The amendment has attracted prominent supporters and opponents. For example, Georgia Schools Superintendent John Barge and many local education leaders and professional education groups oppose the amendment, saying it would erode local control and divert money from existing public schools. Gov. Nathan Deal and other senior Republicans say the plan would create more educational opportunities for students.

Jack Dillard, 83, a retired independent wholesaler, said he did not like the idea of changing the state constitution.

“Any time you’ve got a bunch of changes coming up, it usually winds up being bad,” he said.

But Dee Dee Cousar, a 74-year-old retiree in Atlanta, said she wants to learn more about the amendment. She was leaning toward voting for it. She described the Atlanta school system as “terrible.”

“I’d love to see them make some positive changes,” she said.

The poll of 908 adults was conducted Oct. 8-11 by Abt SRBI of New York.

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MarinerMan 10/13/12 - 09:54 pm

The idea sounds good, but they haven't figured out how to pay for it, without taking money away from the counties. The State is needing money as it is -- why do you think they came up with a hospital tax -- except MCG. Nope. Raise the first two year's worth of money, and then let's revisit.

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