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Monday, April 9, 2012 - 2:00am

Foes, Backers Prep For Charter School Vote

Supporters and foes of a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to approve charter schools are gearing up for public campaigns. It was one of the most hotly-debated issues of this year’s legislative session, and both sides will pull out all the stops before the November referendum.

The bill passed by Georgia lawmakers this month would allow the state to approve charter schools even if local school boards reject them.

As both sides court public opinion, Georgians will likely see billboards and TV ads on the issue.

Angela Palm is with the Georgia School Boards Association, which opposes the bill. She says her group will focus on public meetings and speeches to groups.

“Voters need to decide who they want running school systems," she said. "Do voters really want to give up part of local control and part of what has always been the local system of schools to allow a state-appointed body to say, ‘Yes we’re going to put a school in your district. We’re going to put it right here.’”

The bill’s backers say they are still forming their campaign, and may raise funds in Georgia -- and beyond -- to finance it.

Mark Peezy is coordinating the pro-charter schools campaign. He says he needs to reach voters outside of Atlanta where there are few or no charter schools.

“Part of the challenge in Georgia as a whole is to help the Greater Georgia area – so certainly outside the Atlanta metro area – to understand school choice options can provide much-needed innovation in their local districts,” he said.

He also said the campaign will seek to counter the other side's contention that the state would rob local school boards of control. He says charter schools are run by boards composed of parents -- the ultimate in local control, he says.

If voters approve the constitutional amendment, it would override a Georgia Supreme Court decision banning the state charter school commission.