Attorney General Sam Olens.
ATLANTA — The battle over Amendment 1, which would allow the state to create charter schools over the objections of local school boards, took a new twist this past week.
After several of the state's school boards, including Lee and Early counties, issued resolutions opposing the amendment and state superintendent John Barge posted several anti-amendment links on the Department of Education web site, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens had apparently seen enough.
On Wednesday, Olens sent a letter to Barge focusing on the flurry of recent anti-amendment activity by local school boards and outlining the state's position against use of public resources in a political campaign.
"Local school boards do not have the legal authority to expend funds or other resources to advocate or oppose the ratification of a constitutional amendment by the voters," Olens wrote. "They may not do this directly or indirectly through associations to which they may belong.
"In short, Georgia law provides that local government enties, including county school boards and charter schools may not expend local funds or resources on electoral advocacy. The government can't tax you and then use your tax dollars to tell you how to vote."
Olens followed that letter up with a conference call late Thursday in which he was asked if the anti-amendment resolutions passed by the local school boards actually broke the law.
"Some questions, like whether certain groups have broken the law, I can't answer because they are facts-intensive questions, and I don't have the facts," Olens said. "I'm not going to get into answering hypothetical questions about what does or doesn't violate the law when I have an active matter on the issue."
On the anti-amendment side are a group of heavyweights such as the 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 want choice in their children's education.
Anti-amendment people claim that passage would just invite more state control over local school systems and deny much-needed funding to existing schools which are in dire financial straits.
Amendment advocates ask why not give parents a choice if their local schools are failing?