Lane Price and Lorenzo Heard
ALBANY, Ga. -- When Dougherty County voters head to the polls on Tuesday, two of the most hotly contested items on the ballot are the School Board at-large seat and the controversial proposed constitutional Amendment 1.
Democratic nominee Lane Price and write-in candidate Lorenzo Heard are pitted against each other in the at-large race, which took several twists and turns after Price defeated incumbent Anita Williams-Brown in the July primary.
Price, a political newcomer and medical director of the Willson Hospice House, burst onto the local political scene by ousting Williams-Brown by more than 2,100 votes in the primary.
Her unexpected victory set off a flurry of activity in some camps and Heard, the pastor at 2nd Greater Mt. Olive Baptist Church, attempted to enter the race as an independent.
Heard's candidacy, however, was denied by a unanimous decision of the Dougherty Elections board, prompting Heard to file suit against the Board, claiming his candidacy was wrongly denied.
On the same day the suit was filed, Heard qualified to run against Price as a write-in candidate.
Weeks later, Heard dropped his suit saying it had become a distraction to his campaign and he would concentrate in attempting to prevail as a write-in.
The outcome of the at-large seat is important, in part, because a Price victory would alter the racial make up of the school board, changing it from 4-3 black to 4-3 white. A Heard win would maintain the status quo.
Amendment 1 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would reconstitute the state charter school commission which would allow the creation of charter schools over the objections of local school boards.
Last year the Georgia Supreme Court, in a 4-3 ruling, struck down a 2008 law which allowed a state commission to charter schools and direct funding to them that would have otherwise gone to local districts.
Earlier this year, the Georgia legislature passed H.B.1162 which paved the way for Amendment 1 to be on the ballot.
The Amendment reads: "Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?"
On the anti-amendment side are a group including Georgia Superintendent of Education John Barge, the Georgia School Board Association, the Georgia School Superintendents Association, the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, the Georgia Association of Educators, the League of Women Voters, the Legislative Black Caucus, and the NAACP, among others.
On the pro-amendment side are the Georgia Charter School Association, a handful of the state's teachers and parents who say their motivation is having choices in regard in their children's education.
There are two different types of charter schools, Board Charter Schools, which have the blessing of local school boards, and State Charter Schools which were created by the state after being denied by local boards.
There are more than 315 charter schools in the state, of that number just 15 are State Charter Schools.
Opponents say approval of the Amendment would allow the state to divert $430 million in funding to charter schools and away from school districts already languishing under austerity cuts and furlough days.
Proponents claim that charter schools would allow parents and their children to opt of failing school districts.