CONYERS -- Voters who would like more information about the charter school amendment that will be on the Nov. 6 general election ballot will have an opportunity to hear the pros and cons at an upcoming roundtable discussion.
The event will be hosted by State Rep. Pam Dickerson and Dr. Doreen Williams. Dickerson, D-Conyers, represents District 113, which includes Rockdale and Newton counties. Williams, a former candidate for House of Representatives District 92, is a long-time educator.
The roundtable will be held Oct. 15, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., at Nancy Guinn Memorial Library, 864 Green St., Conyers.
Dickerson said the roundtable is focused on educating the voters, particularly since some may not recognize the significance of the issue.
"That's our purpose for having this discussion so that they can understand exactly what is being done in terms of the constitutional amendment," Dickerson said. "The Supreme Court said it was unconstitutional the way it was set up before, but with this new amendment, we just wanted to make sure the voters understood exactly what it is all about."
The referendum asks: "Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?"
Approval of the referendum would give the state Legislature the authority to create charter schools. The referendum was placed on the ballot by the Legislature after the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in May 2011 that the state's Georgia Charter School Commission was unconstitutional because it would approve and fund charter schools despite objections from local school boards.
According to a summary of the resolution calling for the vote, the amendment is designed to "clarify the authority of the state to establish state-wide education policy; to restate the authority of the General Assembly to create special schools; to delineate types of schools that the General Assembly may authorize and clarify funding authority; to provide for the submission of this amendment for ratification or rejection; and for other purposes."
The Boards of Education in both Rockdale and Newton counties have approved resolutions opposing the charter school amendment.
State Schools Superintendent John Barge last week posted a statement in opposition to the amendment on the Department of Education website, arguing that the amendment would threaten funding for traditional public schools. A complaint was filed claiming that Barge was using taxpayer resources to promote a political position, and Barge's statement was removed from the website. The website now has a message scrolling across the screen that states: The Georgia Department of Education takes no position on the Charter School Constitutional Amendment.
According to Williams, proponents and opponents of the issue will be on hand at the roundtable to discuss their positions. Expected to participate are Karen James, moderator, Political Action Chair for the NAACP; Sen. Ron Ramsey, District 43, who will provide legislative history; Mark Pilgrim, board member of Heritage Prep Academy; Marcus Williams, teacher at Hapeville Academy; Verdallia Turner, president of the Georgia Federation of Teachers; Darlene Hotchkiss, Rockdale County Board of Education member; Wales Barksdale, chairman of the Rockdale County Board of Education; Richard Autry, superintendent, Rockdale County Public Schools; and JaNice Van Ness, founder of Peachtree Academy and a member of the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners.
Williams said each panelist will introduce themselves and their position on the amendment and then answer prepared questions from the moderator. Questions from the audience will be accepted during the last portion of the roundtable discussion.