District 113 candidates talk charter schools, ethics reform

COVINGTON -- Charter schools and ethics reform were the top issues discussed by Democratic candidates for State House District 113 at a forum held by the Newton County Democratic Party on Tuesday evening at Washington Street Community Center.

A non-binding question on the Democratic General Primary ballot asks residents whether the Georgia Constitution should be amended to allow the state to override the locally-elected school boards' decisions when it comes to the creation of charter schools. Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill enabling funding for state charter schools earlier this year. The bill will only go into effect if the constitutional amendment gains approval in the November General Election.

Incumbent Pam Dickerson said she, in keeping with the wishes of the school boards in her district, is against the proposal, which she said strips local boards of education of their powers.

"If they want to fund charter schools, let them fund public schools so we can have better public schools and the teachers have the tools they need to teach," she said.

Sharon Sawyer said that teachers at charter schools are not required to meet the same qualifications as teachers in public schools.

"If taxpayer money is needed to fund charter schools, they need the same regulations," she said.

Former House Rep. Toney Collins, who lost his bid for re-election to District 95 in 2010 and is running again for the newly formed District 113, said he supports the amendment because he said charter schools can "penetrate" specific areas where children need support. He said if charter schools are not limited to the rich or certain segments of the population, they can be good for students.

"The amendment is fair and as long as it does not discriminate, I'm fine," he said.

All three candidates said they are in favor of ethics reform and imposing limits on gifts lobbyists can give to legislators, another non-binding question appearing on both the Democratic and Republican Primary ballots.

Dickerson said Georgia is one of three states that has no limits on gifts lobbyists can give to lawmakers and she is in favor of having limits.

Sawyer agreed, and said there should be full disclosure on what legislators receive from lobbyists. Collins went a step further, saying said he will not take gifts from lobbyists.

"We shouldn't have to accept gifts in order to do the will of the people. The best thing to do with lobbyists is don't take their money. If you don't take their money, you don't have to worry about them," he said.

Dickerson said she was the only freshman representative to get a bill passed in the House -- HB 681, which exempts certain food establishments from government regulations when providing food for nonprofit organizations. The bill did not make it out of the Senate Rules Committee. Dickerson said she was one of five Democrats chosen by the Speaker of the House to attend the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government Leadership Institute. Dickerson also touted her proposed legislation dealing with cyberbullying. She sponsored HB 680 that would make it a misdemeanor when an unknowing person is identified in an obscene depiction. This bill was prompted by Newton County resident Randy Upton, whose teenage daughter was the victim of a person who digitally altered her image to appear as pornography online. The bill did not make it out of committee this session and Dickerson plans to reintroduce it next year.

She said she plans to continue hosting town hall meetings and sending email blasts to keep constituents updated on what's happening under the Gold Dome, and noted she has held a women's health fair and cyberbullying forum for constituents during her term.

Meanwhile, Sawyer, a resident of Newton, emphasized that she is the "hometown candidate." She said she has an advantage because she already knows members of the county commission, city council, board of education and other local groups.

"I know where you live and in most cases I know where you work, worship and where you play. I live here and pay taxes here. Those who know me see me as I am: accessible. Do you want someone who does not live here to make decisions for you at the state level?" she said.

Collins said he has been appointed by the governor to the Martin Luther King Jr. Advisory Council, which promotes and plans statewide activities advocating King's principles and teachings. Collins said he would like to get residents from the district involved in the council. He also pledged to be open to feedback from residents."The best way to serve the people of the district is to get out there and talk to them and find out what they need and what they want and what they've asked for that they haven't gotten," he said.

The new district includes the eastern portion of Rockdale County and the western portion of Newton County. No Republicans qualified for District 113.

Staff Correspondent Aimee Jones contributed to this story.


henrystamm 3 years, 2 months ago

Perfect example of the democrats. Change the subject from the failed school system despite the massive amount in wasted spending. Horrendous education change subject to unlimited donation to the legislatures. Failed graduation rate in the county to the racist Martin Luther King Jr. Advisory Council. And so on. Lets get rid of he Socialistic (Communist) in our country starting in this county. I know of enough blacks that are sick and tired of the so called self-appointed black leaders spreading hatred to enhance their pocketbooks.


SharonBlock 3 years, 2 months ago

Um Sharon Sawyer?? Um dumb answer.  You are dead wrong on your teacher comment.  Just stick with what you know - talking on the radio about poop.


Iknowddatsright 3 years, 2 months ago

Get Almond Turner out on July 31.  Get Eddie Johsnon out on November 6th.  Diminish the duties of Dennis Carpenter.  The system will only then begin to heal and change.  We have already lost Baxter in the contest for who moves where.  They are using the press coverage and DOE data as a case in point to buy homes in Walton and Morgan.  Do you blame them?  I blame the Chamber of Commerce.  They should have applied pressure but now they don't deserve one more penny in their vault to fly around the world.  When Alcovy High's grad rate drops 5 points it will be in the 50's which is disastrous and already it graduates the least HOPE eligible grads.  Maybe it is what we get when we allow a husband to hire his future wife with no high school experience to run it just as Henry says for the MONEY.  Oh six figures?  Sure I"ll take that school.


Iknowddatsright 3 years, 2 months ago

I hope every Alcovy High employee documents every encounter with the principal at this school this school year and sends every item to the press.  If she can hawk their emails through her devious husband then they should use the paper to advocate for them.


Satan69 3 years, 2 months ago

Yes Henry is right there are many fine members of our black community who are very upset by the Carpenter crap and want them out.


Billy 3 years, 2 months ago

Godless + Public Schools will always equal disappointment. Hardheaded or not, you WILL learn this lesson, sooner or later...


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