Olens tells state school chief to lay off political activity

Attorney General Sam Olens.

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?


Nous_Defions 3 years, 1 month ago

> "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."

You hear that Jeff "Bodine" Sinyard!? Sounds like you broke the law when you advocated for the TSPLOST!


Sister_Ruby 3 years, 1 month ago

WOW this opens up about a Zillion "targets of opportunity" down here in SOWEGA.


Kay523 3 years, 1 month ago

but its okay for the "Real Deal" to push the Charter School Amendment? John Barge is becoming a hero to the voters!


KidsFirst 3 years, 1 month ago

I will vote Yes to the charter schools amendment. I got to make a choice once for my family. I visited the public charter school and then the traditional public school and my family chose the traditional public school. BUT just because it was the right thing for my son doesn't mean it's the perfect thing for every child.

By voting yes, we're giving the people who want to start a school (and you have to prove community support) a chance to appeal if a district says no. We have independent charter schools in less than 15 school systems out of 180. Many districts are saying no without even looking at the idea. If the district was right to deny the petition, it will be denied by the commission too. They only approved 16 out of nearly 60 when they existed before.

If the commission approves a charter school the district denied, the district keeps all the money they would have received if they were educating the child. So if 300 students go to the charter school, the district actually makes money. The charter school is funded at the average amount of the 5 lowest schools systems in GA. Only 2 systems would receive less per student than a state approved charter school.


kurtgeorgia 3 years, 1 month ago

KidsFirst, you need to check the facts instead of believing everything you're told. The fact is that Pataula Charter earns $7,569 per child from the State, whereas the five systems in Pataula's service area (Baker, Calhoun, Clay, Early, and Randolph) earn $4,197, $4,630, $4,980, $4,332, and $4,147 from the State, respectively.



waltspecht 3 years, 1 month ago

Basically it is illegal to use public funds for political exploitation of an option. Just like it is illegal for a Union to use dues to support Politicians if the members chose to withhold. You will please note how well that is working won't you?


whodat 3 years, 1 month ago

too bad it's not illegal for a company boss to order employees to attend a political rally--with no pay, and threaten them with the loss of their job if they don't. or is it?



DoctorDorite 3 years, 1 month ago

This has been law forever and I'm surprised so many did'nt know it already ?? Thats why so much he77 was raised during the TSPLOST vote in local areas where it was being pushed but they went around it by getting the contractors and others that would benifit from it to put up the money for advertising how great it was for us.


EdUktor 3 years, 1 month ago

The teachers' unions, represented locally by the Georgia Association of Educators, are steadfastly against education reform and parental choice.

If the amendment passes, the union strategy of fielding phony “Republicans” in local school board races to doom all charter school applications—will ultimately prove less fruitful.

Rent the film WAITING FOR SUPERMAN to learn more.

Then do a Google search on "NEA" and "donations" and you'll see that the National Education Association, GAE's parent union, is also a cash-cow for Democrats—and for every liberal-left pressure group in the news!

Finally, vote "YES" on the Charter School Amendment ballot Initiative!


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