Local elected officials say there’s no way to predict how much of an impact the passage of a state charter school amendment Tuesday may have.
The referendum, which drew about 58 percent support statewide and 66 percent in Forsyth County, clears the way for the legislature to amend Georgia's constitution so the state can approve and provide funding for charter schools.
“I think time will tell,” said Ann Crow, a member of the Forsyth County Board of Education who fought against the measure.
The practice had been conducted previously, but was overturned in a 2011 Georgia Supreme Court decision.
With the referendum’s approval, it likely will begin anew. And that’s just how it should be, said District 24 state Rep. Mike Dudgeon.
“This really is just a normal, good, common-sense policy and I’m happy it passed,” said Dudgeon, a Republican from south Forsyth who previously served on the local school board.
“I think that this amendment will make a big difference for a small number of kids in Georgia. It’s an important group and we want to make differences where we can.”
Nearly 66 percent of Forsyth’s voters, or about 51,982, supported the measure Tuesday, though both Dudgeon and Crow said it’s unlikely to have much of an impact in the county.
The previous state authority approved about 16 of 56 charter school applications received during its three-year existence, according to Dudgeon.
It served as a voice for charter schools that had previously been denied by local school boards and the state education board. The new authority would have a similar role, Dudgeon said.
And while charter schools could fill a void not currently being met by some of the state’s 180 school systems, they would also have less accountability and would pull funding away from public schools, Crow said.
She also noted voters had not been adequately informed, maintaining that the wording of the question led voters to support it. “The ballot was obviously worded to insinuate things that were not true.”
Charles Bullock, legislative and Southern politics professor at the University of Georgia, agreed that the wording “certainly helped.”
“But also there was a lot of money supporting that amendment,” he said. “Georgians usually vote for constitutional amendments. The one thing that would defeat a constitutional amendment is if it appears to be a new tax.
“This was not a new tax, so it kind of falls into the pattern that we usually see where constitutional amendments are embraced.”