October 29-- Most public school officials in Georgia are asking voters to reject an amendment to the state constitution that would allow creation of a state-run charter school system.
However, supporters of the amendment say it's more important to give students options to get a better education.
The public policy group American's For Prosperity supports the amendment, according to its Georgia director Virginia Galloway.
"I am less concerned about supporting systems than I am about finding a school that will work for students. We have one of the highest dropout rates in the nation and one of the highest rates of incarceration and those two are definitely connected," she says.
Galloway says charter schools which have been created by the state have a better record than public schools in the same communities.
"I see kids taken from a school where there is a 45% graduation rate and put in a charter school and they have a 92% graduation rate there. This was in one of the worst areas of Atlanta. Down in Bulloch County they have a charter school and their graduation rate is about 25% higher than the local public high school, so there really is a difference," she points out.
Critics of the amendment say it takes away local control of a school, but Galloway says it's parents who will have the authority to apply for a school charter.
"What's closer to the people, the school board or the parents in that home. The parents are the ones who need the local control. Almost any parent can tell you if their school is working out well for their child and if the child is motivated, challenged and served by that school. That's not happening in a lot of cases," she says.
She also rejects the notion that for-profit companies are bad for education and notes that a private company called Omsbudmen already has more than $18 million in contracts running alternative schools for local school boards.
"Remember charter schools are normally started by parents who say we need something different in our community. Those groups of parents aren't necessarily skilled in running a school. I think it's awesome that the private sector has offered this service and can provide education at a lower cost than your traditioinal system school and get great results," she notes.
Voters will decide in the November 6 general election if they want to pass the amendment.