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Hall school board urges caution on charter amendment
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Members of the Hall County Board of Education said Monday they "have substantial concerns" about the looming vote on a charter school amendment.

The amendment, which is on the Nov. 6 ballot, would effectively give a state-issued commission the power to approve charter schools in Georgia.

Currently, that power is reserved for local boards of education, with the state board able to approve charters that the local boards opt out of.

The resolution would re-establish a third party — the Georgia Charter Commission — that would have the final say in whether a charter school can be established.

The commission has existed before, but was considered unconstitutional by the Georgia Supreme Court because it forced local boards to help fund charters they did not approve.

Advocates for the commission argued that local officials were dragging their feet in approving charters.

Hall County currently has 12 charter schools.

"Most of you know there’s a charter amendment and a number of our neighboring counties have passed resolutions opposing the amendment," board member Craig Herrington said. "Basically, we don’t feel like that’s what we’re elected to do and we don’t want it to be a part of our official duties. However, it is important that we make a statement and we’ve struggled with it for quite awhile now."

Herrington read a prepared statement that expressed various concerns about the approval of the amendment, including the funding.

"This amendment would allow for a State of Georgia politically appointed commission who could place schools in our local communities with no local control," the statement reads. "This would also potentially allow the state to divert money from Georgia public schools to create a for-profit state charter system. In essence, you would have dual schools systems, one governed by local boards that are accountable to the voters and one who is governed by political appointees who have no accountability at the polls."

State school Superintendent John Barge has publicly opposed the amendment, claiming it will take money away from an already tight school budget. He said the General Assembly plans to come up with more than $430 million in new state funds over the next five years to fund the commission and its charter schools.

"We have to ask the question, ‘Is it wise to begin this when great schools that are already in place are severely underfunded?’" the Hall board members wrote in the statement.

The board did not, and said they will not, pass any resolution opposing the amendment.

Last Thursday, the Forsyth County Board of Education, passed such a resolution unanimously.

"We highly encourage all voters to educate themselves on this matter that could have a grave impact on the students in our state," the statement continued. "We urge our citizens to consider this issue and vote your conscience on Nov. 6."

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