Ballot Confusion in July 2012, from GA School Boards Association
by Sally FitzGerald on 7/9/2012

   
                      by  Angela Palm, Director of Legislative Services
 
Happy summer to one and all -- hope it is a joyful, cool one!
 
A confusing issue has cropped up as people take a look at the sample ballots for the Primary.  Occasionally a party chooses to put straw poll questions on the ballot.  These questions are for informational purposes only; they are non-binding.  This year both parties have done so, but they are asking different questions.
 
A question on the Democrats' ballot is causing some confusion:  "Should the Georgia Constitution be amended to allow the state to override locally-elected school boards' decisions when it comes to the creation of charter schools in your county or city?"  Some voters are confusing this with the Constitutional amendment that will be on the November ballot.
 
This question is not the Constitutional amendment that will be on the November ballot. The proposed November amendment would extend the state's authority to create schools.  The state would have an unlimited ability to approve schools in any local district without local agreement.  The July informational question from the Democrats is very broad and could be interpreted in many ways.   
  
Efforts to find a way for the state to insert itself in the local charter process started right after Georgia law was changed to allow approval of start-up charters.  In 2000, the law was passed allowing the State Board to approve state chartered special schools after the petition had been denied by a local board.  State law also allows the State Board to mediate between the local board and the charter petitioner to resolve the issues.  Neither of those provisions has been satisfactory to certain factions.  Thus the continued push for other ways to either make the local board do what someone at the state level wants or to circumvent the local board to accomplish the desired outcome.
 
Voters should keep in mind that it is the limits of their own authority that is being questioned.  "Local control" is about the right of the voters to elect people to represent them in the decisions set forth in the Constitution and to hold those elected officials accountable.  The Georgia Constitution creates the elected local boards of education and authorizes them to establish schools within their district and to control and manage those schools.  Voters choose those who will represent them in making the local decisions about what schools to open, how to control them, and how to manage them.  Both the July and November questions ask the voters if they would like to pass on some of that power from themselves to the state.
 
We choose how we will be governed through the Constitution. Amendments should always be considered carefully, and so should fishing expeditions on amendments. 
                                                 #####
 
Georgia School Boards Association has given Georgia PTA permission to post this news.  Angela was a PTA Council president and has been a GA PTA board member.