Both superintendents in Carroll County, as well as other superintendents and education associations across the state, are staunchly opposed to the amendment. The Carroll County Tea Party Association is in favor of the amendment, with one of its members becoming an unofficial spokeswoman for the amendment in Carroll County.
Villa Rica resident Leslie McPherson, a former teacher's aide from Florida, has been going door-to-door in recent weeks, asking voters to decide in favor of the amendment.
"We are over the promises that our system will be fixed with enough time and money," she said. "We have a system that has a monopoly and that is resistant to having competition."
Carroll County Schools Superintendent Scott Cowart said the amendment is about neither school choice nor charter schools — it's about who approves them and the money that funds them, he said.
"Why create a new state bureaucracy when we already have a process in place, and we already have charter schools that have resulted from that process?" Cowart said. "Why add another layer to that system?"
If the amendment passes, the state will create a commission that can approve charter schools in local communities, even if local school boards have previously denied the application. Supporters of the amendment believe this is a necessary to bypass school boards who resist competition; opponents fear a loss of local control and a shift of money and resources from traditional public schools.
If the amendment fails, local school boards will still be able to approve new charter schools, but the state will not have independent authority to do so.
Currently, an application denied by the local school board can be taken to the State Board of Education for another chance at approval.
The controversial ballot preamble says that Amendment I "[p]rovides for improving student achievement and parental involvement through more public charter school options." The yes-or-no question voters will answer is, "Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities."
Carrollton City Schools Superintendent Dr. Kent Edwards said local stakeholders who have enough confidence in their school leaders with whom they leave their children should also trust the leaders when they say that the amendment is a "bad idea."
"They trust us with all the kids in Carroll County every day, so I hope they give us the same amount and level of trust when we're telling them that this amendment is a bad idea," he said.
Edwards said the amendment's passing would have drastic effects on all aspects of life in Georgia.
"This is the one issue I've investigated more than any other since I've been superintendent," Edwards said, "and I think passing this would put our children's education and our quality of life in Carrollton, Ga., in jeopardy."
McPherson thinks the amendment's passing would improve the quality of life, not only in Carroll County or Georgia, but nationwide.
"This is an issue of national security, if you look at it one way," McPherson said. "We need a well-educated workforce, one that can find jobs and stay out of our jails. That's how we become globally competitive, and retooling our system is the way to do that. We need an independent appeal or review process, and Georgia school boards have proven that."
Cowart said he is "disappointed" in the state leaders who pushed the amendment onto today's ballot.
"At a time when we need unity to fix our schools, this vote has become divisive," the superintendent said. "Improving the education of our children should be unifying, not dividing."
A charter school is a publicly funded school that's exempted from some state and local rules so it can try more creative ways of educating children. Some charter schools operate within local school board governance (such as the College and Career Academy in Carroll County Schools), and some operate outside it.
An analysis of campaign finance records by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows that pro-amendment groups have raised more than $2 million. Those groups include national school-choice advocates and for-profit charter school operators.
The newspaper's analysis shows that opponents of the amendment have collected $123,243, mostly from public officials.
"Wading through all of the differing points of view and countering pieces of information has been frustrating," Edwards said, "but I think voters have found the facts they need, and I hope they make the right choice."