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Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 11:31am

Poll: Most Georgians Back Charter School Vote

A poll paid for by a group promoting a charter school constitutional amendment has found that nearly 60 percent of Georgians support the ballot question. Voters will decide in November whether the state should have the power to approve charter schools even if a local board disagrees.

The Georgia Charter Schools Association commissioned the poll. It found 57 percent of men and 58 percent of women polled would most likely vote for the referendum.

The results showed 38 percent of those polled plan to definitely vote yes, while 11 percent say they will definitely vote no. Plus, 62 percent of people under 55 years of age and 54 percent over 55 will likely vote yes.

Mark Peevy is with Families for Better Public Schools, which backs the amendment. He says the poll shows Georgians want an alternative to traditional public schools.

“We felt that parents would support choices and support their own ability to make choices for their children in education," he said in an interview. "We thought that was a strong point and certainly this polling confirmed it.”

The pollsters reached 600 likely Georgia voters across the state.

The amendment’s foes say the ballot question is misleading. Karen Hallacy is with the Georgia Parent Teacher Association. The group supports charter schools approved by local districts but opposes the amendment.

She says including the words “state or local approval” may give voters the idea that local districts can’t OK charter schools now.

The full amendment on November's ballot will read: "Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?"

Hallacy says voters need to understand that the state will take money away from traditional public schools to pay for the charter institutions.

“There’s no new funding source and the portion of the state budget that is education-dedicated is not growing," she said in an interview. "There are other things vying for those same dollars – healthcare costs, Medicare costs, public safety costs. They’re all growing.”

The amendment’s backers say the state will use money from the general fund to pay for new charter schools it approves.

Both supporters and opponents are mobilizing for voter education campaigns on the referendum. Peevy said the pro-charter school contingent is still raising money to fund the campaign.