SNELLVILLE -- Should voters approve an amendment that would affirm the state's power to charter independent public schools?
Four panelists took a stab at answering the question during a charter school amendment roundtable discussion Tuesday evening.
Sponsored by two local state representatives, the gathering aimed to shed light on the proposed amendment, which seeks to create an appointed commission that supporters believe would serve as a neutral group.
Panelist Marc Pilgrim said that the amendment "sets up a process of review that's not currently in place. You need teeth behind the appeal process ... to say that this (commission) can have the ability to authorize charter schools."
Gwinnett County Board of Education Member and panelist Bob McClure said it would be a mistake to create the commission.
"If this passes, it would create a seven-member board of people not appointed by your community ... to decide whether or not you will have certain state schools in your community," McClure said. "And they will do that over the objections of your local leaders."
Added McClure: "If this passes, it will alter the longstanding partnership between the state and local boards of education. It will change (the state) from our partners to our opponents."
Gwen McCants-Allen, the parent of a student in a charter school, doesn't see it that way.
"I believe this amendment adequately addresses the situation," McCants-Allen said. "There are children who need different types of environments, different types of options, and charter schools provide so many options for students."
The merits of charter schools, said state Rep. Dar'shun Kendrick, is beside the point.
"(This amendment) gives too much discretion to the state," Kendrick said. "I see this as a stepping stone to something bigger politically ... I see this as the next step in messing with our traditional public education. Whether charter schools do a great service to the community is not the issue here."
The defunct Georgia Charter Schools Commission shut down operations in 2011 after the Supreme Court ruled that the existing state constitution already gave local boards control over K-12 education, including issuing independent charters.
A majority of the General Assembly and the governor have since endorsed the amendment in an effort to restore the state commission.