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Officials eye impact of charter amendment
Members of Glynn County's state delegation and education board are eager to see how passage of a constitutional amendment recreating a state commission to review charter school applications will impact the Golden Isles, though for very different reasons.

Georgia voters approved HR 1162 in Tuesday's general election, giving the state government the power to appoint a commission that can approve charter schools outside the auspices of local school boards and the state department of education.

The amendment also passed in Glynn County.

A similar commission was in place from 2008 to 2011, until it was deemed unconstitutional by the Georgia Supreme Court.

State Sen. William Ligon, R-Waverly, who voted to put the legislation on the ballot, said passage of the amendment Tuesday will give parents the chance to pursue a better education for their children in places where the local school system is not performing well.

"The focus was to give parents options in areas where options are needed," Ligon said. "I don't believe it will have an effect on Glynn County or other counties that have a performing school district."

He does not expect a flood of charter schools to open just because the commission is back in place. In the nearly four years the previous commission was around, it reviewed between 60 and 70 applications but approved less than 20, Ligon said.

Although opponents of the amendment have argued state approved charters will siphon more money from an already reeling state education budget, Ligon and other supporters have repeatedly said state-chartered schools will not take any money away from local districts.

For recently elected school board member Ingrid Metz, who will take her seat in January, the amendment was about creating competition.

"A lot of people feel we need competition to improve our school system," Metz said.

Since the commission already existed for several years, Metz said the process and funding of the charter schools will be nothing new.

Giving parents an option to pursue that competition outside of the local political atmosphere is a good thing, she added.

Current board chairman Jerry Mancil and facilities committee chairman Millard Allen are not so sure about that.

Uncertainty about how many schools will be approved and how they will be paid for still remains an issue for them.

"It is agitating to me they are willing to fund these charter schools with state money when we are still having to furlough teachers," Mancil said.

Allen expressed his displeasure with the vagueness of the ballot question that he said did not explain the amendment well enough to uninformed voters.

"They made it sound like if you voted against it, you're voting against motherhood, the flag and apple pie," Allen said.

Board vice chairman Mike Hulsey said he sees the passing of the amendment as a sign of things to come.

"I really think this is the privatization of public education. Until I see otherwise, that will be my stance," Hulsey said.

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