Charter schools and redistricting were the big issues addressed Saturday at the District 5 Quarterly Breakfast at the Henry Brigham Community Center.
Lynn Bailey, the executive director of the Richmond County Board of Elections, led the program by updating the roughly 100 residents in attendance on redistricting and election dates.
“I have been doing this job as director of elections for 20 years this year, and prior to that I worked in the elections office for probably 12 or so years. So I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I will say, without a doubt, this is the most interesting year I have ever worked in my life,” she said.
When Augusta legislators could not agree on a new voting map after the 2010 census, a group of residents filed a lawsuit declaring the current lines unconstitutional.
Bailey said she expects the city to file an answer to the suit within a few weeks. The redistricting process will likely push back commission and school board elections until November, she said.
Registered voters will receive cards in the mail notifying them which district they reside in, where they vote and other important information. Expect one card in June for the July elections and another toward the end of summer, after the local lines are in place. Polling locations will not change this year, Bailey said.
Jim Whitson, the acting superintendent of Richmond County schools, and Monique Braswell, the president of the Richmond County Council of PTAs, asked voters to oppose the charter school referendum.
Whitson, who stressed that he was speaking only for himself and not the school board, said that House Bill 1162 will allow for the formation of a commission in Atlanta that can approve charter schools in any community in Georgia.
That would take power and money away from local school systems, he said. Whitson said it could create a “caste system” that will benefit those who “have” and will hurt those who “have not.”
“I am not opposed to charter schools. I am opposed that the local board of education can be removed from that process,” he said.
Braswell cautioned voters to be careful of the referendum’s wording, which she described as tricky. It sounds like it gives parents more choices, but instead it would remove power over these schools from the community, she said.
The referendum reads, “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of the local community.”
“ ‘Upon the request of the local community.’ They are not you and I. These people come from all over the country. Be careful of the wording,” Braswell said. “My vote is no.”