Is Charter Schools Amendment wording biased?

9:17 PM, Sep 12, 2012   |    comments
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  • Georgia voters during July 31, 2012 Primary Election
  • Ballot preamble wording for Charter School Commission Amendment
  • Families for Better Public Schools spokesman Bert Brantley
  • Charter School Commission Amendment opponent Elizabeth Hooper
    

ATLANTA, Ga. -- Here we go again, apparently another ballot issue with questions about whether it's worded fairly.

First, it was the July 31st transportation sales tax issue, known as T-SPLOST, which Georgia voters rejected overwhelmingly.

Opponents howled when they found out the ballot preamble wording promised to "create jobs" and "relieve traffic congestion".

Now, opponents of a November ballot question are also crying foul.

They're upset over the preamble wording for the Charter School Commission Amendment.

It reads, "Provides for improving student achievement and parental involvement through more public charter school options."

The amendment vote was authorized by the Georgia Legislature in response to the previous Charter Schools Commission being declared unconstitutional by a court ruling.

Now voters will get to decide whether to recreate the commission.

Like T-SPLOST, it's a hot issue that has non-partisan supporters and opponents.

Opponent Elizabeth Hooper told 11 Alive on Wednesday that she believes the Charter Schools Amendment preamble is also rigged to get "yes" votes.

"It's absolutely biased," she said, "Who wouldn't be for improving student achievement?"

Hooper points out that the bill authorizing the amendment vote doesn't mention either "improving student achievement" or "parental involvement".

"To say that is going to happen is a lie," she added.

Bert Brantley, spokesman for the pro amendment group Families for Better Public Schools, told 11 Alive News a recent study by the Governor's Office of Student Achievement proves they make a difference.

"I think it's factual," he said of the preamble wording.

"We've got proof that state charter schools perform better than the schools in the districts where those charters are located," Brantley said.

"We know that parental involvement increases in charter schools because parents are on the board; they're more involved," he added.

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who took heat for the T-SPLOST preamble wording, is distancing himself from this one.

Kemp spokesman Jared Thomas wrote 11 Alive that "The Secretary of State does not choose the Constitutional amendment ballot language."

"That task falls to the Constitutional Amendments Publication Board...comprised of the Governor, Speaker (of the House) and Lt. Governor. Any language they choose must be approved by 2/3 of their board," Thomas added in his statement.

Governor Nathan Deal strongly supports the Charter School Commission Amendment, but his office has not yet replied to our emails seeking comment about the preamble wording.

State School Superintendent John Barge opposes the amendment.

Barge's spokesman, Matt Cardoza, sent us a statement saying, "He has not seen the preamble, but he has already stated that the ballot language is misleading."

Meanwhile, a recent poll by Republican Todd Rehm of GaPundit.com showed 48% support the amendment, while 26% oppose it.

That could mean as many as one in four Georgia voters still haven't made up their minds.

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