By sharing links to pro- and anti-amendment blog posts and engaging in sometimes heated debates, supporters and opponents are turning to Facebook and other social media platforms to say their piece before the general election decides the fate of Amendment 1 on Tuesday.
A popular choice for discussion of the amendment is the Republican Women of Cherokee County’s Facebook group. President Lori Pesta said she’s happy to give people an outlet to discuss their opinions on all issues.
“It’s a very emotional issue, particularly for the parents,” Pesta said. “I’m not really setting a precedent one way or other, but I do feel there needs to be a platform where people can openly speak about the issue.”
Pesta said the amendment, as well as Amendment 2 and the county’s Homestead Option Sales Tax or HOST should all be viewed closely before people go to the polls.
If passed by voters in the Nov. 6 general election, the state constitutional amendment would create an appointed commission to consider charter school petitions that have been rejected by local school boards.
The vote decides whether the state should have ultimate power in authorizing charter schools or if the decision will be left up to local education boards. Now, charter schools can be approved by local school boards or, if objected to by the local board, appeal to the state Board of Education.
By definition, the schools are held accountable to their charter agreement with their authorizing board—rather than state or school district policies—to allow for more flexibility in the classroom.
The first charter school in the county, Cherokee Charter Academy, was approved as a state-chartered special school last year after failing to gain authorization by the local school board following an emotionally charged battle by both sides.
The Amendment 1 issue has been a polarizing one for Cherokee County residents, with the Board of Education races up for election this year focused almost solely on the issue at several local debates.
In the three hard-fought school board races, two anti-amendment candidates won their races, while one pro-charter candidate took her race.
Patsy Jordan defeated incumbent School Board member Kim Cochran for Post 2, with the challenger campaigning on an anti-amendment stance.
School Board member and Board Chairwoman-elect Janet Read won out against Danny Dukes, a local governing council member for Cherokee Charter Academy.
Kelly Marlow, a parent of two children at CCA, defeated PTA Advocacy Chairwoman Kyla Cromer for the newly created Post 1 covering the central part of the county.
Some local notables who have taken advantage of the Republican Women’s page include school board member Michael Geist and Dukes on the pro-side, while many PTA members and teachers often argue against the measure.
Lisa-Marie Haygood, Georgia PTA membership chair and member of the Facebook group, said she has continued to speak out against the amendment at local summits and forums despite little attendance.
“I don’t see many people turning out for that sort of event,” Haygood said. “The people there already have their minds made up.”
On the page, Haygood addressed rumors that if the amendment fails, charters will close.
“I don’t know where that one started, but you have my personal assurance that should anything of the sort even be whispered about charters that are up and running today that I would fight tooth and nail to keep that education option open for all families and children concerned,” Haygood wrote.
Cromer, who is also a member of the Facebook group, said she has been working with all local PTAs to spread information from Georgia PTA that has taken a stance against the amendment.
“I am still supportive of charter schools and still supportive of CCA,” Cromer said. “My biggest thing still is the transparent funding of it and the management fees that are paid to corporations are my biggest issue.”
Cromer said after the vote, she hopes the community is still able to come together and do what is best for all students.
“I am hopeful that however the amendment turns out that the parents of CCSD and the parents of CCA can work together for the betterment of the kids, because these are friends and neighbors,” Cromer said.
Both Haygood and Cromer said they will be out holding signs near polling locations on Nov. 6.
Addie Price, a parent of two CCA students, will be rallying for the other side on Tuesday.
Price said her oldest daughter is excelling at CCA and hopes the amendment passes so charter schools have a more direct appeals process with the state.
The Cherokee County native said social media has been a useful outlet to share ideas as well as the actual text of the amendment with voters.
“I think social media and the Internet has been the main avenue for this entire election,” Price said. “I’m not seeing even as many presidential signs for the presidential race. I have seen some signs in yards but I think the main outlet has been social media.”
“My personal feeling is I feel like if just the facts were looked at, (the community) wouldn’t be as polarized,” Price said. “I feel like the opinions and fear of change have clouded a lot of people’s views.”
She said she has not encountered much vitriol throughout the campaign season, mostly because people are required to identify themselves on Facebook.
“I’m one of those where it doesn’t really bother me but I haven’t come across that,” Price said. “When it’s all over, I think we’ve just all basically got to come together and do what’s right for the kids.”