Has attorney general confused charter school question? As Nancy Grace says, bring on the lawyers.

As I noted yesterday, the charter school amendment battle has turned into a legal minefield, with charges and counter charges flying back and forth.

Olens was approached by pro-amendment interests, who haven’t been identified by their attorney Glenn Delk. They were aghast at the public opposition to the amendment by GOP school chief John Barge and by many school boards around the state. They thought it crossed a line.

Olens agreed. Barge took down a link on the DOE web site to his opposition statement.

Then, Olens sent Barge a letter this week saying that school boards cannot use district resources or funds to lobby against the amendment, maintaining that 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. They may not do this directly or indirectly through associations to which they may belong.”

But Atlanta attorney Emmet Bondurant says Olens — who cited a Bondurant case in his letter — cannot stop elected officials from opposing the amendment.

“While the AG is right that a public agency (including the governor and the Legislature) should not use public funds to try to influence the outcome of a referendum, it does not follow that John Barge, as the elected State School Superintendent, or local School Superintendents or members of local School Boards are also prohibited from speaking out and advocating the passage or the defeat of a referendum,” says Bondurant, named one of the top 10 trial lawyers in the United States by the National Law Journal.

I have been inundated with emails on this issue today, with readers raising questions whether, for example, the Georgia Charter Schools Association, a trade group that receives membership dues from public charter schools, is also banned from seeking public support for the amendment. The association is a leading proponent of the amendment and has had a high profile in the campaign to pass it.

And readers are asking whether charter schools can still bring their staffs and students to the Capitol for pro amendment rallies and press conferences, which entails public funds since the schools are supported by taxes, as are all public schools

I put these questions to the AG’s Office in an email today and received this reply from Senior Assistant Attorney General Stefan Ritter.

Our letter laid out a broad legal principle: local government entities of any sort cannot use the taxpayers’ resources to tell the taxpayers how to vote – regardless of whether they’re lobbying for a yes or a no vote.

Lobbying the General Assembly is a different matter: the Georgia Supreme Court (and our letter) has clearly distinguished between using public resources to lobby the General Assembly, which is permissible, and using public resources to lobby voters on a referendum, which is prohibited.

Again, this is a principle that applies equally regardless of which side one is one. You can’t expend public resources to lobby voters to vote yes or to vote no.

Let me note, though, our letter did not discuss any specific applications of this principle. Whether public resources have been expended in lobbying the voters is a fact-specific question, and our client (Ga DOE) has not requested that we review any specific factual circumstances to determine whether the broad (and long-standing) legal principle our letter outlines has been violated.

In the context of associations, our letter made clear that government entities cannot lobby voters indirectly through associations that are essentially extensions of the government entities. Whether a particular association is essentially an extension of a government entity is a fact-specific question that we can’t answer in the abstract.

I hope this is helpful on your question.

I also put the question to some attorneys who specialize in education law. Among the responses: “A main focus of the Olens’ letter is its emphasis on the constitutional and statutory prohibitions on the use of school funds for other than educational purposes. Yet, this prohibition does not solely apply to local school boards and would certainly appear to be applicable to use of public funds by charter schools as well.  In other words, if a local school system may not commit any public funds to advocating for or against passage of a constitutional amendment, then that prohibition would apply equally to a publicly funded charter school.”

Olens pledged clarification on this issue in the next two weeks. It’s needed.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

95 comments Add your comment

Pride and Joy

October 4th, 2012
9:03 pm

…and what I am furious over is that PTAs are using their funds and time to oppose the amendment when there are dues paying members who SUPPORT the amendment.


October 4th, 2012
9:15 pm

So it will take 2 weeks to determine if the ruling that applies to publicly funded school systems/boards also applies to publicly funded charter schools? Why?

I suggest all webpages, signage, etc set up by charter entities be noted in the next 2 weeks so if the ruling is the same for charters as it is for non-charters so that suit can be brought.

Let the circus begin!


October 4th, 2012
9:17 pm

Sorry, drop the “so that” after non-charters and add a comma.


October 4th, 2012
9:53 pm

No wonder the state of Georgia is the cellar dweller of all 50 states in terms of ethics. Chip “voucher boy” Rogers is doing his part to keep Georgia there. Charter schools are private schools in disguise. You vote for this sorry piece of legislation, then you take away local control and give it to the state.


October 4th, 2012
9:55 pm

All legislators who voted to put the charter amendment on the ballot ought to be thrown out of office.

John Konop

October 4th, 2012
10:02 pm


What I do not understand how can a private management company donate to the campaign, since it is our tax dollars? That would mean that part of their fee we tax payers paid them was for the campaign. And we had the state board approve the budget based on the charter school serving the kids,not a campaign.

Miss Management

October 4th, 2012
10:30 pm

Yes, all of these leaders are entitled to their opinion and can vote, however, as I understand it, the issue is that these folks who already benefit greatly from their government jobs were using tax dollars to send out letters against something that many of those taxpayers may be supportive of. Is that right? This lady on the news who led a mandated school board ’seminar’ spent the whole time talking about how to defeat the charter school amendment. Are you happy that your tax dollars paid for dozens of school board members to sit there all day and listen to the lady rant against charter schools? She completely admitted it on the news reports. She was indignant. She felt very much entitled to hoist her opinion on her captive crowd, complete with explicit direction. Really, really bold, IMO.


Charles Douglas Edwards

October 4th, 2012
10:35 pm

We urge all fair minded Georgia voting citizens to oppose this charter school amendment !!!

It is very important to defeat this constitutional amendment. The stakes are very, very high.

It will be much, much easier to defeat this amendment than try to overturn or repeal it in the future.

The powers to be understand this and are pulling out all their efforts to pass this amendment.

We believe that this charter school amendment is regressive and will lead us back to separate and unequal school systems.

Georgia should be spending it time, resources and efforts on establishing the best public education possible to benefit the most children.

We cannot afford the expense of taxpayers funding charter schools in addition to public schools.

Last year the world celebrated the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. monument. A year later his home state of Georgia is trying to turn back the hands of time with this amendment.

We pray and hope the good people of Georgia will see the light.

Ron F.

October 4th, 2012
10:50 pm

Supporters of either side may exercise their right to speak, pass out fliers, whatever, so long as they do it outside of the job hours and using their own resources. If I read this correctly, we can say and do what we wish on either side so long as it doesn’t directly use any state property, funds, or resources. That means no more trooping the kiddies down for rallies that are public and could be construed as trying to sway voters. They can go to the Assembly chambers and offices, but that’s about it. Opponents have the same right to directly contact Assembly members, but they can’t have a public rally or meeting before or after. It’s a fine line that folks on both sides will have to agree to stay on the right side of for the next few weeks. Clearly, Olens was targeting one side in his initial statement, but even he as AG knows surely knew he would be called to task as to how this affects both sides.

Quite frankly, in the last month before a vote as early voting has already begun, I think most people have made up their minds. There are not enough votes left to sway that would throw this thing one way or the other. Perhaps the public campaigning needs to take a rest now and let the voters do their job. The majority will speak one way or the other and we’ll have to work with the choice they make.

Ron F.

October 4th, 2012
10:54 pm

“the issue is that these folks who already benefit greatly from their government jobs were using tax dollars to send out letters against something that many of those taxpayers may be supportive of. Is that right?”

Both sides have done it, and if there is a violation of state law, they’re both guilty. Olens decided to point out one side’s activities while not mentioning the other. Supporters and opponents both are currently receiving tax dollars and must be careful about how they express and encourage their point of view.


October 4th, 2012
10:56 pm

@Miss Management, you are absolutely right! “This lady on the news who led a mandated school board ’seminar’ spent the whole time talking about how to defeat the charter school amendment. Are you happy that your tax dollars paid for dozens of school board members to sit there all day and listen to the lady rant against charter schools?”

I work for an elected official and it has been made very clear that we cannot advocate for an election measure without risking our jobs!

CharterStarter, Too

October 4th, 2012
11:01 pm

@ John Konop,

I understand your question and your reason for asking it, but I believe the answer is that they provided a service in exchange for a fee, and what they choose to do with their fee is irrelevant to the conversation.

The same would apply to the builders, attorneys, and other vendors who contributed to the Vote No campaign. These private entities have the same right.

And vendors on both sides, are naturally wanting to support their clients.

CharterStarter, Too

October 4th, 2012
11:06 pm

Ron, the rallies I have attended have been in support of charter schools in general, which have laws established rear din them. It is also a real way for kids to be involved in a very direct way with application of their rights as citizens and to understand how government works and the schools use the opportunity to tour the Capitol and meet their legislators as well.

To my knowledge, there haven’t been any rallies after the legislature was out of session.

CharterStarter, Too

October 4th, 2012
11:06 pm

CharterStarter, Too

October 4th, 2012
11:11 pm

Charles Douglas Edwards – we are at the bottom of the list in national education. How much further can we “regress.” 41 states have charter laws, and the strongest performing ones have alternative authorizers. All of those states rank higher than us (and many significantly so.)

I believe moving forward takes you somewhere….standing still gets you nowhere. Charters are one way to move this state forward. Stay behind if you wish in practices and philosophies that are outdated and on the whole, have proven to be ineffective, or let’s move forward together and offer kids EVERY OPPORTUNITY we can to help them succeed.

Ron F.

October 4th, 2012
11:14 pm

CS2- But when it’s used as a public event with supervising adults who are paid by the state during working hours, then it would seem to be awfully close to that line. It would be the same thing if I attended the rally for or against as a supported during a school day. Private meetings with legislators it seems would be acceptable, and that’s fine. You’re right- there haven’t been any I know of since the adjournment, and certainly having a pro or anti rally on a weekend would be okay as long as fliers aren’t being printed at school or in a state office. That’s the problem-both sides are going to have to be careful about how and when meetings or rallies are held. And that has to be applied to both sides, since both are taxpayer supported. I honestly think by this point that most have made up their minds anyway, so in reality it’s probably a moot point. It is at least good information to keep in mind in the coming years. The amendment vote, regardless of outcome, isn’t going to end the debate I’m sure!

A reader

October 4th, 2012
11:40 pm

So, are any tax-payer funds being used to advertise the support of this legislation?? Probably, but I really do not know. But I do know that tax-payer funds were used to promote TSPLOTS. Which was another boondoggle designed to pad the pockets of the “friends” of the elected officials.

Who “wins” if this legislature passes? Private companies who are in the business to create charter schools to line their own pockets. Who else “wins”? Those 15 APPOINTED individuals who get appointed at a high salary to oversee this baby.

I vote no. I do not trust ANY elected individual in GA. And I certainly do not trust THE STATE to do right by education. They have already shown that they deserve a big FAIL.

Mary Elizabeth

October 4th, 2012
11:45 pm

The constitutional amendment is unnecessary. The state BOE can already establish state charter schools. In my opinion, the consitutional amendment was established for the purpose of supplanting “government” education for more privatized education, in which some will make a profit off of school children.

Sandy Springs Parent

October 5th, 2012
1:18 am

Charter schools are bogus. I am a Liberal, what you need is real school choice, give parents a voucher to cover the actual cost of the education. They have finally admitted it by saying they would give the charters the ave. of the 5 lowest cost districts, just under $8k per student. Ironically this amount is right on what the Arch Dioseses of Atlanta sponsored Catholic schools K-8 schools seem to be running since they went to the parent pay the full cost of education model, with financial aid available to those in need..

So let’s be honest everyone registers their child with their true home residence district. They are then given a $4k voucher for Pre-k, 8k for k to 8, and 12-16k for High School with special Ed students receiving an additional $8 to $20k depending on the disability. If they use it at the home school they are bused to the home school. If they choose not to go to the public school they are distracted to they can take a bus to the school and then pay a fee to be transported to another in district school that they would prefer to attend or the parent can transport them. Many Private schools such as Woodward and St. Francis offer buses that pick up students from pick up points throughout the area, for about $2,000yr. . The college park marta station is full of Woodward students riding it.

having a true Voucher system, that pays at least $8k a year will inspire competition. The public schools will have to get better to get the money and the private schools will too. It can’t be some measly $4k amount that I have heard some bat around saying that so much is spent on special Ed. In private schools, people only keep their kids in the more expensive speech school, Skenk school, Sophia, etc… For 1, 2,3 or so years for dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, Speeh, Autism, ect. Because the parents are paying the costs themselves. You also don,t have speech and physical therapy at school, you go to an out patient clinic, where your health insurance, ga peach, Medicare or Medicaid. I have never understood why the schools are paying for this. I have one friend that took her daughter who goes to private school to the Fulton Public SChool she is zoned for, speech therapy. Her husband works for a Fortune 50 company and makes a quarter million a year. Even though it was cover by their insurance she didn’t want to pay the $20 co-pay. I lived in Cobb at the time and they wouldn’t authorize speech therapy untile age 8, ( too late) so I took my child to children’s healthcare and paid the $50 co pay on each visit. School districts should not bear these costs, these are the parents responsibilities and their insurance.


October 5th, 2012
2:04 am

Those people who are adamant that the Amendment 1 is a bad idea may be forgetting that the debacle that we have for public education is a product of local control. Local control has clearly established itself as public enemy one against public education.

School districts where high school graduates can not read. School Boards that operated like Beruit ghetto gangs. A school district that lost its accreditation. A school district that was exhibit A for the largest public school cheating scandal in the United States. A school district where a project manager, her husband a secretary and the Superintendent ripped of nearly $2,000,000 from the system. A school district where one in five senior did not graduate last May. Parents who try to smuggle their children into accredited or functioning zones, schools gets charged with fraud and misrepresentation.

That is local control, in case we are forgetting which problem this Amendment 1 is supposed to address.

John Konop

October 5th, 2012
2:08 am


In all due respect a private management company is not an ordinary vendor, since they control way more than an ordinary vendor. Private management companies are used in the private sector all the time, from hotels, property………The duties, responsibilities, authority……are way more than ordinary vendors and are covered, with many more restrictions in their contract, to cover the numerous conflicts of interest. I would hope you would understand the scope of issues are not the same as hiring builders, lawyers…..they are in charge?


October 5th, 2012
2:15 am

SLAPP: Acronym for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” A lawsuit intended to intimidate activists and/or opponents. Coined in 1989 by Penelope Canan and George Pring of the U. of Denver: “Every year… hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lawsuits are filed that are aimed at preventing citizens from exercising their political rights or punishing those who have done so.”

It looks like he charter school mess is heading this way…

Vote NO

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

October 5th, 2012
4:00 am

Does Sam Olens’ opinion count in Richmond County? Last night, the RCBOE held a forum on the proposed charter school amendment. The speaker was the president of The Georgia School Boards Association. Wonder what position she presented?


October 5th, 2012
5:47 am

Local PTAs who are speaking out against this amendment are following the Georgia PTA position and guidelines. The PTA is a political organization. Perhaps if PTA learned to exercise their political muscle at the local level, we wouldn’t have the mess we have due to the austerity cuts.

This amendment isn’t about he existence of charter schools. Obviously there is a path for approval both at the local and state level. This is about dismantling public education. If public education is so bad, why do we have some of the best higher education schools in the country? Is everyone attending Georgia Tech and UGA from out of state?

mountain man

October 5th, 2012
6:29 am

So we will see what the November vote brings. I will vote YES. From the looks of the polls, so will a majority of voters. As I have said before, the local BOEs have dug their own hole by indiscriminately turning down local carters to maintain control over “their” money. Serves them right if the amendment gets passed. The educational lobby has fought this amendment tooth and nail. They had their chance to solve educational issues – for the past forty years. They have been failing miserably. Time to try the alternative – or at least give a few parents some CHOICE.

South Georgia Retired Educator

October 5th, 2012
7:07 am

Let’s face it. The AG is doing the Governor’s bidding, trying to put down opposing views and stalling further clarification until Nov. 6. And the whole issue boils down to those loud voices who want to split public schools into pieces and consequently undo decades of building public schools that serve the whole spectrum of kids—all races, all abilities, rich and poor, etc. There are some positives about charter schools within the context of preserving the integrity of public schools, but these loud voices now sound like a familiar tune for “let’s go back to the way it was before integration.” I can’t read it any other way, and we know we can’t return to that awful time in our history.

sneak peak into education

October 5th, 2012
9:06 am

@CS2-maybe we are at the bottom of the list but

1. There has been a $4 billion cut to public education, yet gains have been made.
2. The legislature has failed to say where the money is coming from to fund these state approved charter schools.
3. The public is being asked to give up their democratic right to vote on local issues by passing it into the hands of a non-elected board that will be appointed by the governor.
4. The provision in this amendment already exists with the appeals process going through the state BoE.
5. A vote of no does not mean that people are against charter schools, they are against an unnecessary layer of government, which republicans supposedly hate big government except when it is used to push their agenda, but against the idea of putting all the power into the hands on a non-elected board.

Check out the http://www.votesmartgeorgia.com/facts for the truth behind this amendment, the policy writing group ALEC and their influence in the halls of our legislature.

VOTE NO in NOvember.

Gwinnett Voter

October 5th, 2012
9:08 am

Empty Seats. I think this is one of the biggest reasons GCPS is against charter schools. They stopped making capacity and enrollment counts available a couple of years ago. Using very conservative calculations, I find:

23, 099 empty seats in traditional GCPS schools. (available now if needed)
10,000 empty seats in 10 schools for special programs (could be available next year)
10,000 additional seats proposed by ESPLOST IV

When you are looking at 40,000 empty seats in your schools, you don’t want any competition, right?

Regardless of whether the Charter Amendment passes, why does GCPS not house public Charter Schools in underutilized facilities?

sneak peak into education

October 5th, 2012
9:16 am

sneak peak into education

October 5th, 2012
10:26 am

Looks like there is plenty of opposition to the amendment but,as the writer states, it looks like the writers of the ballot amendment may be in trouble for the preamble wording because it leads the voter to believe that only charters lead to higher student achievement and parental involvement. Please read


VOTE NO in NOvember

Concerned Teacher

October 5th, 2012
10:28 am

Can a school have propoganda against the amendment sitting in the teacher’s workroom? I don’t know who put it there or copied it or where they copied it, but a large stack of Vote No fact sheets from Vote Smart Georgia is sitting in our workroom. It bothers me.

alpharetta mom

October 5th, 2012
10:32 am

Any feel like they’re in communist china- down with the educators say the party operatives! The propaganda spewed out by this privatization machine is despicable. 1) We already have a law which specifiies the process by which a charter school which has been denied by a local board can appeal to the State BOE – there is NO evidence that this has or will be challenged anyone – unless the General Assembly persists in their ongoing efforts to defund traditional public schools perhaps. 2) the legislation itself is a piece of crap – it is an empty suit – no specifics on what schools where, what populations need to be served, no monitoring mechanism – it is a black hole just like the $51M SSO program that know one knows about to send money via “scholarships” to religious schools. There is no money is supporting public education but there is a ton of money in supporting privatization of public education. Anyone notice that since our housing market went down the tube – the hedge funds, lawyers, developers have all migrated where? Charter Schools! Vote NO

Atlanta Mom

October 5th, 2012
10:43 am

‘local government entities of any sort cannot use the taxpayers’ resources to tell the taxpayers how to vote ”
I’m confused. Didn’t we have plenty of government entities telling us how to vote for the T-Splost?


October 5th, 2012
11:04 am

In 2 weeks? Is that enough of a “head start”? Maybe Olens should wait till November 5th to rule on the “pro” side use of funds.

DeKalb Inside Out

October 5th, 2012
11:12 am

Miss Management – 10/4 @ 10:30pm
tax dollars paid for dozens of school board members to sit there all day and listen to the lady rant against charter schools?

Dozens ?? Try 95% of all Board of Education representatives across the state. That’s roughly 1000 representatives across the state are sent to Savannah for the GSBA Annual Conference where they are taught how to organize and defeat Georgia Charter Schools, Amendment 1.

Accounting for room, board and travel expenses Georgia taxpayers easily paid over $500,000 for the BOEs to go to Savannah and lear how to Defeat Charter Schools Amendment Conference.

But wait, there’s more. Georgia taxpayers paid GSBA almost $300,000 in fees to teach all the Board Of Education representatives from across the state how to defeat Georgia Charter Schools, Amendment 1.

I’m no lawyer, but I think that’s against the law. Get Schooled, feel free to make that your next post.

DeKalb Inside Out

October 5th, 2012
11:29 am

Mary Elizabeth – 10/4 @ 11:46pm
The state BOE can already establish state charter schools.


Since the 2011 Georgia Supreme Court decision, the state can only approve “State Chartered Special Schools”. The Charter School Amendment was written to address that supreme court decision.

Mary Elizabeth,
I challenge you to find a charter school approved by the state since the ruling that isn’t labeled “State Chartered Special School”. Note: Virtual schools don’t count.

What is a “State Chartered Special Schools”
Majority Opinion in said case stated the phrase “special schools” is most readily interpreted by defining what those schools are not… “They are not schools that enroll the same types of K-12 students who attend general K-12 public schools; they are not schools that teach the same subjects that may be taught at general K-12 public schools.”

Thank you, come again.

sneak peak into education

October 5th, 2012
11:42 am

Maureen, after reading the op-ed piece by Elliot Brack, he states “Now to the sinister aspect. The wording on the ballot appears to be possibly unconstitutional, in that it directs your response to the eventual question by telling you it would mean improved student achievement, and more parent involvement, through the public charter options…It’s saying something like: surely you want this, for it’s improving and giving more parental options.”

How do we get a constitutional lawyer to confirm if the wording is, indeed, constitutional? Anyone know?

DeKalb Inside Out

October 5th, 2012
11:50 am

Ron F, et al.
Where did Olens single out opponents to the charter school amendment? Even though traditional public school boards are only passing resolutions against the amendment (as recommended by the GSBA in the $1,000,000 Defeat The Charter School Amendment Conference paid for by tax payers), Olens was neutral in his response to Barge’s request:

“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. “

C Jae of EAV

October 5th, 2012
12:31 pm

@Pride and Joy – I’ve posed the same question to charter school parents who have PTA organizations in their schools. I get blank stares.

@John Knoop – I understand your logic but unless all of a management companies (EMOs/CMOs) income is derived from work done for charter schools that’s paid for with public $’s, I believe it would be tough sledding to argue your point. These management companies are going to pour $’s into any political campaign effort they feel will enchance their opportunity to make a profit. Further, I disagree with your point about these EMOs/CMOs not being an vendor like unto any other. I understood that EMOs/CMOs are by law not allowed representation on charter school governing boards. Therefore, their control is limited to the authority permitted them via their contract with the school. At the end of the day its the charter govering board that’s the ultimate authority. Am I missing something?

@Gwinnett Voter – Your idea requires local districts want to establish progressive working relationships with the charters that operate in their borders. Instead the position of most local boards is to fight tooth and nail againest the expansion of charter schools and put up obstacles to those that exist in the hopes that they fail.

C Jae of EAV

October 5th, 2012
12:36 pm

@sneak peak into education et al – Realistically, the wording of the ballot measure that allowed local boards to take tax revenue collected for schools and redirect for inclusion into Tax Allocation Districts(TADS) was equally as leading, but there was no objection raised 4 years ago when it was on the ballot.

Its seems to the me these ballot measures are purposefully written in a manner that mis-directs voters concerning the underlying issue. But then the language for the ballot is a factor of what was explictly stated in the legislative bill that spawned the vote in the first place. Thus if you don’t like the language blame your representative. Further, I would like to think the legality of the language would have been vetted before it was included in the bill.

Beverly Fraud

October 5th, 2012
1:07 pm

What if APS exchanges its surplus erasers for lobbying efforts? Would that be against the law?


October 5th, 2012
1:28 pm

CCAE (Cobb County Association of Educators) is holding two forums on the Charter School Amendment. The first is 10/10 at Campbell HS at 5:30. The second is at Hillgrove HS on 10/24 at 5:30. If you would like a CCAE “Vote NO on 1″ yard sign let me know!

John Konop

October 5th, 2012
1:58 pm

…………..their control is limited to the authority permitted them via their contract with the school. At the end of the day its the charter govering board that’s the ultimate authority. Am I missing something?………

It all depends on the scope of the contract and their influence on purchasing, policy………Once again private management contracts I have seen are very strict on any conflict of interest, for very obvious reasons. I am not a lawyer, just asking the question.


October 5th, 2012
2:53 pm

Guess what! The State Department of Education APPROVED 3 Start-up Charter Schools yesterday (2 in Chatham and 1 in Henry) as well as APPROVED 3 CHARTER RENEWALS in Cobb, Coweta and Atlanta. How in the world did that happen if we have to pass the amendment in order for the state to approve? It’s already in place folks!

Joe Rural

October 5th, 2012
3:04 pm

This is merely the opinion of AG Sam Olens’, which is he certainly entitled to have and to share. However, that does NOT entitle him to try to foist his “opinion” on everyone else’s behavior!

sneak peak into education

October 5th, 2012
3:14 pm

@really-I totally agree

VOTE No in NOvember

Mary Elizabeth

October 5th, 2012
3:42 pm

DeKalb Inside Out, 11:29 am

The link you gave regarding the Commission for Charter Schools mentions the funding of local school district funds being diverted to state charter schools. That funding element, to my knowledge, would not be happening with the state DOE’s authorized state charter schools.

Readers must understand that the wording in the General Assembly’s legislation that states “special charter schools” does not refer to “special ed” charter schools, but to public charter schools in general. All public schools, whether they are traditional public schools or public charter schools, cannot discriminate in terms of what they offer in curriculum to ALL public schools students.

If a local school district denies a special charter school to parents, those parents can currently apply to the state Board of Education to establish a start up charter school, as long as that charter school meets the state’s educational standards.

You asked me to name one state charter school that had been given authority to exist by the state Board of Education. Odyssey School is one example. If you go to the following link you will see the whole list of those charter schools that have had state BOE approval:


Also, please be aware of the law that established that the state’s DOE has the authority to establish special charter schools. It is 20-2-2064-1 (c)

Taking all of this information into consideration, I continue to maintain that the Consitutional Amendment, which establishes a state Commission for Charter Schools, is unnecessary.Therefore, I continue to recommend that citizens vote NO to the Consitutional Amendement in November. That Consitutional Amendment is Amendment #1.

DeKalb Inside Out

October 5th, 2012
4:07 pm

Really? stated The State Department of Education APPROVED 3 Start-up Charter Schools yesterday (2 in Chatham and 1 in Henry) as well as APPROVED 3 CHARTER RENEWALS in Cobb, Coweta and Atlanta.

This would make my points moot if true.

Really?, Is this online anywhere?


October 5th, 2012
4:28 pm

Dekalb – here is the agenda from yesterday’s meeting. It shows the charter applications on the consent agenda. https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/Meetings/ViewMeetingOrder.aspx?S=1262&MID=25698


October 5th, 2012
4:38 pm

The governor and his cronies have crossed into fantasy land with these recent AG opinions, and remember they are opinions not law, regarding who can and cannot speak for or against this amendment. Bottom line is simple – they want to silence those of us who are pointing out with truthfulness the flawed legislation and amendment they want passed.

Amendment 1 is not about improving choices for children. If our legislature and governor truly cared about education in our state, we would not have had the tremendous cuts to our public education budget they have enacted over the last 10 years. We would not see such onerous rules and regulations being pushed on public schools. Instead, if these officials actually cared about the 95% of children in our state who depend on public education, we would hear them talking about the development of means to shore up the budget weaknesses. We would hear about their ideas to support our teachers with better resources and class sizes that were more appropriate. But no. All we hear from them is how much Georgia needs charter schools. Well, we already have them and guess what! They are not helping us that much.

Now that some leaders have had enough guts to speak out with truthfulness, the tactic being used is legal posturing to intimidate them and try to silence them. This all sounds rather unAmerican to me. If the procharter side is so correct in their position, why do they fear what we have to say in opposition. Why do they have to threaten us with lawsuits simply because we have the audacity to speak out?

Ron F.

October 5th, 2012
4:46 pm

““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.”

And that would, by legal definition, include the boards of charter schools which are also funded by the state, correct?

Ron F.

October 5th, 2012
4:54 pm

“If the procharter side is so correct in their position, why do they fear what we have to say in opposition. Why do they have to threaten us with lawsuits simply because we have the audacity to speak out?”

That’s my question. Agree or disagree- both sides have the right to voice their opinions. When one side fears the opinion of the other, the tactic most often taken of late is to try to silence the other side. That tends to make me think there must be some truth there.

DeKalb Inside Out

October 5th, 2012
5:02 pm

Tony, very nice … thank you !!

Really?, NO SOUP FOR YOU !! Those charters were approved by their local boards. These were not appeals and not charters that weren’t already approved locally. This state approval was a rubber stamp of approval for what the local board did and not the creation of a regular charter school.

Academy for Advanced Studies Charter School – Board Item
It is recommended that the State Board of Education grant a charter for Academy for Advanced Studies Charter School, a grades 9-12 start-up charter school approved by Henry Board of Education

Savannah Classical Academy Charter School
It is recommended that the State Board of Education grant a charter for Savannah Classical Academy Charter School, a grades K-12 start-up charter school approved by Savannah-Chatham Board of Education

Have a good weekend! I’m out of here.

Dr. Monica Henson

October 5th, 2012
6:08 pm

The Attorney General’s letter to superintendents, which went out to the independent charter school leaders (as we are superintendents of our LEAs), was directed both the district boards of education and charter school boards of directors:

“In short, Georgia law provides that local government entities, including county school boards and charter schools, may not expend local funds or resources on electoral activity.”


October 5th, 2012
7:36 pm

DeKalb: The Gwinnett BOE denied Ivy Prep’s petition January 19, 2012. The State approved Ivy Prep’s petition (after extensive modifications) May 10 this year.

Ivy Prep’s two schools in DeKalb County (perhaps you’ve heard of this place) both opened at State charted schools just last year.

Consider doing some reading over your weekend.


October 5th, 2012
7:38 pm

Gwinnett Voter
October 5th, 2012
9:08 am

Interested in your calculations & sources as my classroom is averaging 32+ students (well over the 24 originally determined to be optimal) along with the rest of the people in my department. GCPS student numbers continue to rise each year. Trailers still adorn campuses. Where are the “empty seats” you speak of?


October 5th, 2012
9:32 pm

The GCSA was careful to do their lobbying through other entities, here is the link to the contributions AND expenses for Families for Better Public Schools: http://media.ethics.ga.gov/Reports/Campaign/Campaign_Name.aspx?NameID=17639&FilerID=NC2012000048&Type=committee

Click on “view report” and then you can choose contributions or expenses to see what they’ve taken in and spent on. Most interesting is the money spent on Polls and Digital Media/Facebook (for a whopping 248 likes on their facebook page). Don’t believe the hype generated by the many branches of non-profits and polls, it is a smokescreen.

The difficulty lies in voters not understanding the question on the referendum which makes it even more important for us to educate those around us as to what the question means. Even if you are a public employee there is NO law against educating people on your own time with your own resources. I am asking everyone I know to research the issue so they know what they are voting for or against.

My question to all of the charter amendment supporters is why did the referendum question have to be worded in a deceptive manner towards the voters? If this cause (the presence of an appointed State Charter Commission) is so important for the education future of our state, then shouldn’t the referendum question be clear?


October 5th, 2012
10:33 pm

Whoever stated that the Board conference in the video was mandated is absolutely wrong. No one is required to attend these Board conferences. I am a long time Board member and these conferences are strictly voluntary. Board members do have to complete 9 hours of training each year, but the conferences are only one of many ways to secure this training. The channel two report was very bad reporting and one sided. Just sensational journalism.

sneak peak into education

October 6th, 2012
8:41 am

To the proponents of for-profit charter schools, read what is happening in Florida where Chinese business men are investing in a charter school system in order to secure green cards. This is precisely the path your YES vote will lead to if the amendment is passed.


VOTE NO in NOvember


October 6th, 2012
8:46 am

I’ll vote Yes. I love how people like to say we’re at the bottom of the pile because of the austerity cuts over the last 10 year. Come on folks, we were at the bottom of the pile then too! When less than 15 school systems out of 180 have independent charter schools after 11 years, it’s obvious most school boards aren’t taking the ideas of these innovative schools seriously. They have a rubber stamp that says ‘no’ ready to punch on top of any charter school application that comes to them.

The commission is an appeals process only. The bad ones will be denied a second time but the good ones will get a chance to open. Could it be the school systems are afraid their families might choose these schools? Could it be the school systems are afraid their teachers will slowly begin to realize that they’re the best charter school founders we have and leave the traditional setting? Are they afraid that each year these schools will operate for considerably less and someone might ask why?

sneak peak into education

October 6th, 2012
10:37 am

If the commission is only an appeals process then it is already defunct and not required because we already have one of those. Could it be that the people who will VOTE NO are doing so because they see this as a means by which the whole sale process of the privatization of our public education system will take place. Could it be that they will VOTE NO because they are not willing to give up their democratic vote to put it into the hands on a non-elected, self-governed board? Could it be that they they will VOTE NO because not once has the legislature said where the money will come from to fund this movement? Could it be that they will VOTE NO because they don’t want to create another unnecessary layer of government (isn’t smaller government the battle cry of the republicans)? Could it be that they will VOTE NO because charter schools have been proven, more often than not, to not perform any better than their traditional counterparts?


October 6th, 2012
11:02 am

Funny ‘Sneaky’. I say make all schools charter then because if they aren’t going to perform any better, at least they’ll do it for A LOT less money. You won’t find a charter school superintendent making more money than the president of the United States. Silly argument. Charter schools are there to offer an option. Simple. I chose a traditional public school for my family after visiting the charter school BUT, that school is working great for the families that chose it. I thought it was about the kids first. Maybe not.


October 6th, 2012
11:49 am

The appeals process you described is currently handled by the State BOE and has been since 1998. Specifically, this function is performed by the DOE’s Charter School Division headed by Lou Erste. You can read about it here:

What you didn’t mention is why you support spending a ton of money to duplicate a process and government agency that has been operating successfully for well over a decade.


October 6th, 2012
3:08 pm

Let’s make all schools charter schools since that way the state chips in more money! Ah Ha! THAT’S the ticket!

sneak peak into education

October 6th, 2012
3:15 pm

@May – you argue that you won’t find the superintendent of a charter school making more than the president, as is the case in some of the local school districts. Where your argument falls apart is that these superintendents are running huge districts and are responsible for a large number schools containing a large number of students and personnel. If you have charters pop up in every district, say even 2 or 3, they will be earning, in proportion to their traditional counterparts, a much higher salary for the number of schools and students they are responsible for. The idea of charters being available in every district does nothing but to create single structures with the same layers of bureaucracy that you see in their traditional counterpart and, thus for the district, is less efficient and cost effective. That being said, I will admit that there is some bloat in some counties central offices that could be trimmed.

sneak peak into education

October 6th, 2012
3:18 pm


Here is a link showing that the same thing happened in New Jersey with their charter schools. Makes for interesting reading and if you think that there will be more oversight in Georgia, Ha-Ha. It won’t happen given the current legislature who are in the pocket of ALEC,


Ron F.

October 6th, 2012
5:15 pm

MAY: many school districts are small enough that there isn’t a need for a charter school. You should visit some of the smaller systems where the entire K-12 school is housed in one or two buildings. Regional charter schools could provide some extra programs not currently offered, but the geographic distance one would have to cover to get there would be challenging. They’re not all like APS and full of corruption and waste. They’re also very broke after all the austerity cuts and rock bottom property assessments, so there isn’t money to contribute to a charter school if one was proposed and accepted. Look at the number of students served in many districts and you’ll see there isn’t the need for charters across the state that there is in the metro area.

ChartersStart, Too

October 6th, 2012
6:08 pm

@ Jonn K – Hi again. You make the assumption that all management companies provide the exact same services – they don’t. Some only provide curriculum, some do back office, so do everything. It depends on the needs of the school.

Let me ask you something – if the central office of APS takes 22% of the revenue (while only 49% goes to instruction) and the individuals hired for central office (i.e., Errol) contribute to the anti amendment campaign – is that the same thing as an EMO making a contribution? The individuals may work for a non-profit entity, but they are personally profiting. If Ombudsman (who earned $15M), who manages drop out recovery programs and does the same jobs as an EMO does, and they contribute to the anti charter campaign, is it the same? Just wondering.

Look, we always end up talking about EMOs. I am truly not trying to be a cheerleader here for management companies. They sometimes serve a function. They, like any other vendor, need to be engaged mindfully, have a strong contract, and have proper oversight.

ChartersStart, Too

October 6th, 2012
6:24 pm

@ Larry Major –

Please explain to me how you can reconcile the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution, the fact that they said the charters were deemed NOT “special schools” AND local school districts who now have “EXCLUSIVE” control over public education? And don’t tell me the state is currently authorizing – that is not the issue. The issue is if they have the AUTHORITY to do so.

Please explain why the vote no campaign says to vote no “TO STATE CONTROLLED SCHOOLS” if they are fine as sunshine with the current appeals process. How are the currently state authorized schools any different? Wouldn’t this campaign logo lead voters to believe that they just MAY file suit in the future (and given the fact they’ve done so before, they have demonstrated they will)?

Explain how you can say that the state charter appeals process worked just fine over the last 10 years when those charters were chronically under funded, many living on under $4000 per pupil. You’re a big “adequacy” proponent and raised holy hell about Ivy “taking your daughter’s money.” Think how the moms and dads of the state charters felt when their children were earning else than half of their traditional counterpart students…all because they sought a better educational opportunity for their children that the local schools were not providing.

And PLEASE explain how in the world you can find the amendment language “confusing.” That’s been a tactic used by the anti amendment folks, but it is such a preposterous claim it borders on laughable. The preamble to the question simply restates the legislative intent of charter schools – to raise student achievement. The question itself simply affirms WHO EXACTLY in this state may approve charter schools if local communities ask for them.

Mary Elizabeth

October 6th, 2012
7:04 pm

For readers who may not read Jim Galloway’s AJC blog entitled, “Political Insider,” I am cutting and pasting part of a letter, as presented on Galloway’s blog, from the Mayor of Breman, Georgia, to her consituents in which she opposes the Constitutional Amendment. See the link below for this information. It is presented in the 3rd segment of Galloway’s content in his post of October 5, 2012.

“Opposition to the proposed constitutional amendment, which will be on the Nov. 6 ballot, may be strongest in rural Georgia, where cuts to education have had a larger impact.

Olens declared that taxpayer money may not be used to campaign against – or for – the amendment. One example immediately pointed out by charter school proponents was a letter that Sharon Sewell, mayor of Bremen, sent to city residents.

Bremen has its own city school system with 6,000 students. From Sewell’s letter:

‘This amendment has nothing to do with charter schools as I have thought them to be. Local boards of education along with the communities in which they serve can already authorize charter schools.

This amendment offers the opportunity for the state to bypass locally elected boards to create a state commission that that strips local voters, parents and local officials of any authority, placing it instead in the hands of state politicians. It also diverts our tax money from funding our local public schools to for-profit state charter school management companies who may be more concerned about shareholder profits than student performance.

….As my friends, I want to say to you that I am horrified by the greed for power that is being demonstrated in our state and federal governments. We have got to stand up, stand together, be informed and seek the truth. Sadly, truth is hard to find. The trunk of this nation is being attacked by parasites wanting to thrive at the expense of the roots holding the health of the American tree. We still have the chance to make a choice to make a change. If not us, then who? If not now, then when? If not America, then what?

May God have mercy on us, grant us grace and inspire us to stand and not blink. I am deeply grateful for you and I love living here with you.’

Sewell said this morning, in a telephone interview, that she regularly sends messages to residents via their water bills, and said that no extra public expense was involved.

‘Every month, I write to our people about something that’s on my mind. My people simply need to know what they’re voting for or against,’ she said. ‘I think that an informed populace is very important.’

‘The frightening part of this is that the people who created this charter school amendment would just soon everybody not know. That is the most frightening part of all,’ the mayor said.”


CharterStarter, Too

October 6th, 2012
10:35 pm

@ Mary Elizabeth -

1. You clearly do not understand how either commission schools or current state charters are funded, so please refrain from trying to explain that which you do not know. And BTW, 797 addresses state chartered schools, too.

2. We want very much for the public to know – what we don’t want us for them to be told outright lies. If you would like, I can compile those for you and show you the gross disservice these boards are doing by lying to their communities. It is utterly shameful. So much for allowing local control – impossible if they are unable to obtain facts and are swayed by their local officials.


October 7th, 2012
6:43 am

CS2: The State’s authority to charter schools is defined in OCGA 20-2-2060, which was not part of the lawsuit and is very much intact. What you and some others are doing, is applying parts of the decision to a hypothetical court case involving a different code section. The situations are fundamentally different because the State BOE is a constitutional entity with the constitutional authority to create schools, while the Commission and its authority had legislative origins.

If you want to know why the vote no campaign said something, you’ll have to ask them. Concerning future litigation, no, I don’t see it ever happening. There was only one court case in 13 years, and the plaintiffs intentionally avoided involving the code section related to State Charter Schools.

The appeals process involves only charter petition approval. Funding is a separate issue. Look at it this way – the Legislature could fund State Charter Schools in any amount it pleases, but lacking a functional appeals process, there wouldn’t be any State Charter Schools to receive it.

Families involved in State Charter Schools make their choice for their own reasons. Not one State Charter School has ever asked local taxpayers for local funding so no, I’m not at all sympathetic to their financial situation.

Concerning the “confusing” thing, I suspect you have attributed someone else’s comment to me. If not, please be more specific because I don’t know what I said that would create this impression.


October 7th, 2012
8:36 am

I do love when these comment threads come down to the final 4 or 5. None of which will be swayed. See you guys on the next one.

I’ll vote ‘yes’ and continue to try and explain why. I really do believe most voters are not ‘fooled’ by the language of the amendment. I think most have experienced a time in their lives when having an option for their children would have been a solution. I don’t even think you have to be in a failing system to have a charter school. What if someone wants to bring Expeditionary Learning to Peach County? What if 150 families tour the school and see something that ‘clicks’ for them? Why wouldn’t Peach Co. BOE appreciate and observe this little school to see if that’s something they might take to everyone? But no, they’ll deny the petition. Period. They will.

Mary Elizabeth

October 7th, 2012
10:59 am

CS2, 10:35 pm, Oct. 6, 2012

“Mary Elizabeth
You clearly do not understand how either commission schools or current state charters are funded, so please refrain from trying to explain that which you do not know.”

CS2, you make a sweeping generality of my understanding, with arrogance and condescension, and then you lecture me, as you might a child, on more or less keeping my mouth shut.

Here’s the real problem. You continue to size up – in a cursory manner (as you did on Jefferson) – what I know and do not know based on your own faulty reading and analysis and, then, you have the gall to address me in the supercilious manner that you do, with an assessment that was erroneous to start with, based on your own cursory reading of my posts on this thread. Below is what I actually discussed, in sequence, on this thread.

(1) I made a short statement reaffirming that the Constitutional Amendment was unnecessary because the state BOE can establish state charter schools. (11:45 pm, Oct. 4)

(2) “DeKalb Inside Out” responded to my comments and gave the following link for me to study before I addressed his/her remarks (11:29 am, Oct. 5):

(3) I read that link and responded to “DeKalb Inside Out,” in which I only used two sentences related to funding – which I will explain in more detail below. (3:42 pm, Oct. 5)

(4) I reposted the letter of the Mayor of Bremen, Georgia, to her constituents in which she opposed the Constitutional Amendment – from the original posting on Jim Galloway’s blog. (7:04 pm, Oct. 6)


DETAILS, regarding funding, that I presented on this thread:

“DeKalb Inside Out’s” link provided to me was from “At Issue” from the Senate Research Office (in Georgia) and was written by James R. Touchton, Senior Policy Analyst, November, 2011. Below are the lines written by Mr. Touchton regarding the Supreme Court of Georgia’s decision regarding the Charter School Commission and funding, to which I responded to “DeKalb Inside Out”:

“The Georgia Supreme Court recently found Georgia Charter Schools Commission to be unconstitutional. . . What was the issue?. . .The court ruled that the Commission could not establish state-created charter schools over a local board’s objection AND (caps are mine) divert the local portion of state funds to the Commission schools.”

Therefore, my response to “DeKalb Inside Out’s” inquiry of me, related to funding, was simply the following:

“The link you gave regarding the Commission for Charter Schools mentions the funding of local school district funds being diverted to state charter schools. That funding element, to my knowledge, would not be happening with the state DOE’s authorized state charter schools.”

Notice that my remarks are limited and prudent. My first sentence was simply a restatement of what Mr. Thornton has written (that was true regarding funding at that time, handed down by Georgia’s Supreme Court) and my second sentence simply reassured readers regarding the fact that the state DOE’s authority to assign state charter schools was probably not in jeopardy. Notice that I deliberately used the qualifier “to my knowledge” so that I would not mislead anyone regarding funding. (Btw, from AJC reporter Wayne Washington’s charter school article in today’s Metro section of the AJC, entitled, “School issue pivotal for Georgia,” are these words by Washington: “If the charter application is rejected by the local school board, organizers can appeal to the state Board of Education, which can overrule the local board. In that instance, the school would receive state and federal money but not local property tax money.”)

I do not pretend to be political operative, as I highly suspect you are. I am an ordinary citizen who believes strongly in traditional public education working with a limited numbers of charter schools to find innovative ways to help improve traditional public education. I do not wish to see traditional public education supplanted by a movement in this nation which is trying fervently to privatize public education, with an underlying profit incentive.

Moreover, I know that Gov. Deal supports the Constitutional Amendment and that Dr. John Barge, Georgia’s state Superintendent of Schools, does not support it. The expose on Gov. Deal’s use of power in the context of ethics, which was written by Jay Bookman in today’s Sunday edition of the AJC, further makes me trust Dr. Barge’s opinion on the Constitutional Amendment rather than Gov. Deal’s. (I cannot link Bookman’s article today, but Bookman usually posts his Sunday column as his first Monday blog entry, so for any readers who wish to read this expose of Gov. Deal – who do not receive the paper edition of the AJC – I will post that link to Bookman’s article tomorrow on this thread, FYI.) Furthermore, I know that Rep. Jan Jones, who is on, if not chair of, ALEC’s Educational Task Force, sponsored HR 1162 that became the Constitutional Amendment. With supporters such as these, of this Constitutional Amendment, I think that I am wise to oppose it. Imo, this Consitutional Amendment is unnecessary because Georgia’s State Board of Education already has the authority to establish state charter schools.

Regarding funding, reporter Wayne Washington has an excellent article about the charter school movement on the front page of the Metro Section in today’s AJC. Unfortunately that extended article does not appear to have a link on the AJC’s online edition, so that I cannot share Washington’s excellent article, here, with readers. However, in my next post on this thread, I will simply restate some of Washington’s comments from his article in today’s AJC for readers’ knowledge.

Governors, political operatives, and ALEC, all who wield much power in our nation, are not the foundation of American society and of America’s tenets. Ordinary citizens, such as myself, are that foundation, just as public education based on public taxes, which is not the agent of private market enterprise, is the foundation of our nation’s tenets, imo. Therefore, as a committed American citizen to our nation’s highest principle, i.e. “all are created equal,” I will continue to speak up and share my knowledge and opinions, as I continue to learn, with others. I am grateful to this forum which allows me, and other citizens, to do so.

ChartersStart, Too

October 7th, 2012
1:34 pm

Mary Elizabeth – I would like to challenge you to respond in under 300 words – or at least not a long epistle.

Secondly, I’m not making sweeping generalizations. You stated the funding wrong. Period. It wasn’t interpretation, it was completely contradictory to the actual language in the law. Show me HOW you can validate that funds will “diverted” if the law CLEARLY states that no funds can be taken from public schools that were otherwise earned?

Moreover, if you believe (as you have said in the past) that we “already have a means of appealing” and that this method is perfectly fine as is, how you can justify this same claim of diversion of funds when the state’s funding for their schools is ALSO COVERED in HB 797 the EXACT SAME WAY as the commission schools would be.

You can’t have it both ways, Mary Elizabeth. Please go back and read the law. I KNOW you care about public education, and truly (despite our bantering) respect your commitment, but please, do some real research on what this commission really will be and how it will be implemented. It’s not as scary as you think.


October 7th, 2012
3:02 pm

CS2 I suggest that you read the law again, completely. Regarding charter school funding: “(c) No deduction shall be made to any state funding which a local school system is otherwise authorized to receive pursuant to this chapter as a direct result or consequence of the enrollment in a state charter school of a specific student or students who reside in the geographical area of the local school system.” (lines 317 – 320)

You notice the part about “specific student or students in the geographical area of the local school system?” It doesn’t say that state funding won’t be decreased to districts overall, just that it won’t be in direct ratio to the number of students attending a state charter in a specific district.
If your interpretation is correct, that the extra funding for state charters above and beyond what the state sends to TPS’s, why have we not seen that information forthcoming from the bill’s sponsors, Gov. Deal, etc? (The basis of Dr. Barge’s opposition to the amendment, on the other hand, is that it will divert funds from the budgets of local school districts since the law provides for significantly higher per FTE funding for state charters.)

The current appeals process leads to state schools receiving the same funding as TPS’s. in state and federal funds. That isn’t the “EXACT SAME WAY” at all. (Of course, Gov. Deal miraculously found funds – despite his charge to most departments to cut 3% from their budgets this fall – to make up the loss of local funding from the decision. Talk about pet projects, but the ethics issues have already been mentioned today, and hopefully those who haven’t read the print paper today will see that article tomorrow…)

Consider more than one source before you tell someone who obviously does their research that they are “wrong. Period.” Your information may be wrong, instead, and crow isn’t tasty with any flavoring…

(Thanks for directing others to today’s articles, ME.)

ChartersStart, Too

October 7th, 2012
3:25 pm

@ Larry Major – You are partially right – the law is still intact; however, HB 797 also addresses state charters (not just the commission). I have yet to get a response to this question, so perhaps you will…

IF those opposed the Commission (remember, “vote no to state controlled schools” campaign), WHY would they also not be opposed to the State Board allowing for appeals:

1. BOTH are appointed bodies
2. BOTH can override district decisions
3. BOTH fund the state/commission charters (under HB 797) exactly the same way.

And please, don’t say duplicative bureaucracy. First of all, the original commission had 5 staffers – the work the state charter schools office currently does would simply be shifted. Secondly, the Commission itself will be volunteer. And finally, the charters fund the Commission (just as they do the district office) with paying up to 3%. And, while discussing unnecessary bureaucracy – we have 118 districts with under 5000 kids – each one runs its own central office and board. THAT is waste and too much unneeded bureaucracy.

@ MB – First of all, districts are funded for state and federal monies from their student count and student characteristics. Secondly, local funds aren’t calculated per head, BUT, the law states explicitly that the district will not lose any of these funds. As I said, she is wrong. Period.

Mary Elizabeth

October 7th, 2012
3:42 pm

CS2, 1:34 pm

First of all, my 10:59 post, though long, was very “tightly” and cohesively written, regarding the content that I wished to have communicated, namely:

(1) The identification of your condescending tone

(2) The sequence of my posts on this thread

(3) The statement by James R. Thornton, Senior Analyst from the Senate Research Office, regarding the Supreme Court’s Decision in 2011 (See, again, his words regarding the court’s decision in my 10:59 am post – which are highlighted by separate defining lines.)

(4) My restatement of Thornton’s remarks to readers as well as to “DeKalb Inside Out,” who had provided the link to Thornton’s statement

(5) The credibility, or lack of it, of those who oppose, and those who support, the Constitutional Amendment, imo

(6) The fact that ordinary citizens, such as myself, are the foundation of this nation’s tenets, and my assertion that those ordinary citizens should never be intimidated not to speak out

Thus, I would not cut one word from my 10:59 am post because I know that that post was very cohesively written, given the detail that I wished to communicate. If you found that amount of detail burdening to you, I am sorry, but I write essentially for the overall reading audience of this blog, even as I address individuals such as yourself, and I believe many readers would value reading the detail in the differing points that I communicated.

You still do not understand. I was quoting what Senior Analyst James Thornton had written in November, 2011, (please notice the timeline) regarding funds being diverted from local districts to state charters (please see Thornton’s words in my 10:59 am) – as handed down by the Georgia Supreme Court in 2011. I compared that Supreme Court decision to the fact that Georgia’s Board of Education would not, therefore, be risking a similar judgment today from Georgia’s Supreme Court because local funds are NOT diverted from local districts to state charter schools by the State Board of Education. (Please, also reread more carefully Wayne Washington’s words, in his charter school article in today’s AJC as I stated them in my 10:59 post, which confirm the fact that “local property tax money” is NOT diverted to state charter schools from the local school districts).

Furthermore, I am aware that, as a result of legislative action in the last legislative session, funds are specifically not allowed to be taken from local school districts to be given to state charter schools which the Commission of Charter Schools might authorize. But, that legislative action was accomplished in the sping/winter of 2012. The statement written by James Thornton, regarding the diverting of funds, was in 2011. Please notice the difference in the timeline, relative to my remarks which simply restated Thornton’s comments. The original link that “DeKalb Inside Out” had given me to analyze was from the November, 2011 analysis by Thornton – and that is what I addressed in my response to “DeKalb Inside Out.”

I had already posted that I would later summarize reporter Wayne Washington’s excellent research in this matter in his article in today’s AJC. His research is sufficient. For me to take the time to summarize Washington’s research is more than enough time given from me to this endeavor. Moreover, I trust Washington’s research as a very competent AJC reporter. I have other things to do today, so that it will be evening, or tomorrow morning, before I post this summary of Washington’s article on this thread. This summary will simply be composed of selective sentences from Washington’s article in today’s AJC that I will type here. I will use Washington’s own words entirely – not my words used to interpret his.

ChartersStart, Too

October 7th, 2012
3:51 pm

@ ME – the law AT HAND that implements to commission is HB 797 – irrespective of what an analyst might have said. Please respond to the language in the current law and how it reconciles with your supposition that money will be “diverted” from the traditional public schools. I anxiously await your response.

DeKalb Inside Out

October 7th, 2012
4:12 pm

I agree with Mary Elizabeth, The court ruled [in 2011] that the Commission could not establish state-created charter schools over a local board’s objection . “State Chartered Special Schools” are the only independent charter schools the state is authorized to create. (not counting virtual schools).

Ron F said many school districts are small enough that there isn’t a need for a charter school.
You may not think you need a charter school but others might. Local money doesn’t fund a charter school, only state money. Therefore, the traditional public schools end up with more money per student for every student that goes to a state created charter school.

CS2, John Konop is opposed to the current state board creating chartersThe state board is paid about 3 percent for doing the due diligence and this is work that has already been done by the local school board. It would be hard to argue that this is not an extra layer doing redundant work.

I’m trying to get everybody on the same page.

ChartersStart, Too

October 7th, 2012
4:28 pm

@ DeKalb Inside and Out – thanks for trying to get us all speaking the same language.

I want to make sure you are aware that the Supreme Court said that charters do not qualify under the Constitution as “special schools.” And they gave exclusive control to districts. So, that stands to reason that the state truly may not have the authority to provide an appeal. Virtual schools and brick and mortar are not differentiated as far as authority for authorizing their charter goes.

Regarding Ron F.’s statement – I do not believe that size of a district should dictate “need.” I do not believe we need 180 school districts. We have 118 under 5000 kids – they are ALL providing the same function that could be consolidated and save tax payers funds. Aside from that – need is based on interest by parents and the community at large. Pataula pulls from 5 small districts, and yet, they have attracted 300 kids to attend because they offer a more engaging learning environment and better outcomes.

And as for the “state board creating charters,” they don’t. The parents, teachers, and community members create the charter (and govern it). The state merely determines if they are quality and then holds them accountable.


October 7th, 2012
7:57 pm

CS2: May you enjoy a quick and full recovery from any ill effects incurred by forcing yourself to type that I was correct about the law being intact –) You know, when I tell you to ask “them” about what “they” said, it’s not because I’m a smart a** (which I am; this just isn’t an example of it).

A couple weeks ago, I attended an “informational” meeting on the amendment. Seriously, if I corrected the obvious misstatements of fact on both sides, we’d still be there. Forget the undecided vote; I don’t think half the people who do know how they’re going to vote can give valid reasons for their decision. All I can give you are my own reasons.

First, I strongly feel that the State BOE should be elected, not appointed. Now you want to create a Commission whose members are appointed by a board that is itself, appointed. The entire concept flies in the face of Democracy. Yes, voters will do stupid, inexplicable things, but these mistakes are all fixable. After voters throw away their voice in government, there is only one, very ugly, way to get it back.

Also, I have a deep distrust of vocal amendment supporters. You have seen me repeatedly point out that no State Charter School has ever asked local voters for local funding. The real problem is what was done in its stead.

There was no conceivable reason for the first Commission, other than sneaking in the code which allowed it to manipulate QBE funding without voter approval. After that law was struck down, Jan Jones submitted HR1162 with exactly the same predatory funding language. Amendment supports now brag that QBE funding will be unaffected, but the original clear intent was, again, to get taxpayers’ money while staying immune from voter backlash. So, let’s get upfront and personal.

You pointed out the proposed commission will serve the exact same function that the State BOE currently performs.

WHY do you support changing our Constitution?

ChartersStarter, Too

October 7th, 2012
9:24 pm

@ Larry Major –

I really DO enjoy bantering with you and for your direct approach in getting to the heart of issues.

Do you believe that all state agencies should be elected…like the Board of Regents, the Professional Standards Commission, the Forestry Commission? The State Board (and Commission for that matter) are even more accountable because if they jeopardize the elected official’s status/reputation, they can be very quickly removed. Moreover, the boards governing the schools are actually the ones accountable to the tax payers.

Secondly, I believe that public school children (regardless of traditional or charter) should be equitably funded. I support equalization for districts (like Gwinnett) and believe they deserve those funds in order to serve their kids properly. Likewise, I support charters receiving equalization, which is exactly what the state supplement will do. I didn’t have issue with the prior funding method with the Commission because I felt like the district was losing funds proportionately to the charters, but that obviously didn’t fly, so HB 797 ensured that districts would not be negatively impacted. In my view, it solves the same problem, actually puts more dollars into the district since they keep local funds, and pipes more funds into public education (even though it’s the charter sector). The districts are still ahead of charters are funded with the supplement based on the average of the bottom 5 districts in the state.

As for the law – I have never had any issue with admitting that the statute is in effect for state schools. Honestly, that’s not the issue… the issue is whether or not the statute is legal. Two things cause concern that it is not. First, that the Supreme Court clearly defined “special schools” and charters were not in that definition. Secondly, the Supreme Court gave local districts EXCLUSIVE control over public education. Exclusive means without exception, singularly, only one. That would preclude the State Board from having the authority to authorize or fund schools. This makes the State Board vulnerable to legal challenge. The amendment would, in effect, simply affirm the state’s role that the opponents claim they already have. If we take the opponents at their word, then their real gripe is with 797, not the amendment.

Has it occurred to you that 797 addresses both the state and Commission schools? State Board approved schools are funded exactly the same as Commission schools, and yet, the districts are using the funding as one of their reasons for disapproving. Why is it the vote no campaign says that we don’t need a Commission because the state can currently authorize, and yet, their whole campaign is “VOTE NOT TO STATE CONTROLLED SCHOOLS.” Why not Commission schools only if they never plan to question the State Board’s authority? And finally, you have to see that the Superintendent, in coming out against the amendment has proven the need for an objective Commission. The DOE, under Barge, is very, very tied to the districts. It is filled with prior-district folks. Barge has made it clear that he disapproves of any more charters until the districts are “fully funded,” which we both no will never happen, as QBE has never been fully funded since it was established. The DOE staff makes staffing recommendations, so I am fearful of the fairness of the staff given Dr. Barge’s statements and the absolute garbage he published about the state charters that was disproven over and over by data his own department published.

Charters are working in our state, Larry, they really are, and they are raising the bar and influencing changes in local districts that are good for kids. Most charters don’t want to be a state charter – they all wish desperately to be respected by the locals and treated fairly, but they don’t have another option when the district doesn’t play fair. Districts play games during authorization…and renewal. Just look at Ivy – Gwinnett had no reason to deny them in the first place…after the Commission was shut down, they adopted them for a year and then non-renewed – WHY? It was simply a political game at the expense of kids and teachers. I know of several high performing schools who have been openly threatened for renewal when they pressed on their district about something the district was doing incorrectly according to the charter contracts.

There is simply no coverage for the existing charters OR to protect the integrity of the authorization process for new petitioners. The Commission, as it existed before, pushed hard on the charters to demonstrate that going to the Commission was a necessity, not an “easy out.” Being locally approved is always the best route, but there has to be another route if the charters are stonewalled, and that route HAS to be legally unchallengeable. Given the venom and frankly, the unethical (and possibly illegal) activity of the districts in the opposition against the amendment, it is even more imperative that the amendment passes. And we are taking it to the people for a vote, which I know you highly value.

So that’s my answer.

ChartersStarter, Too

October 7th, 2012
10:40 pm

Msureen, can you please see if my reply to Larry Major is stuck in the filter?

DeKalb Inside Out

October 8th, 2012
9:31 am

I have been using this analysis as my point of reference

Approve, Create, Authorize ?
Can you provide some clarity regarding what the state can and can not do? I have been fumbling with the correct terms. I was saying ” the state couldn’t approve charters”, but there were a number of charter approvals on the state agenda last week.

Those approvals were for charters that were already approved by the local BOE, but confusing nevertheless. Authorize suggest that the state isn’t supposed to but does it anyway. You corrected my use of the phrase”state created charters”

Charters are not “special schools”
Where can I reference that? I didn’t pick up on that anywhere.

Charter Funding
The Ga Supreme Court decision seems to be centered around how the state funds charters. Can you speak in layman’s terms about how the funding determines the constitutionality of the state’s authority to approve state charters?

Thanks for any clarity you can provide!

Ron F.

October 8th, 2012
10:16 am

@Dekalb: you well know that locally approved charters do, in fact, receive local funds in addition to state funds. I’m all for those options being there for kids as needs arise. What we don’t need are more state-approved schools that aren’t locally supported. If needed, the group proposing the school needs to convince the local voters and boards, period. However, considering current school funding from the state under its current legal obligations, there isn’t enough money in most districts to even consider another school. When you look at what happened with Pataula Charter Academy, you see what can happen with a charter school that doesn’t have full local support. It became a political issue that resulted in a school that is so obviously racially off balance compared to the districts it serves. Folks on both sides used it as a wedge issue either for a lot of reasons. It doensn’t represent the needs of all the students as a result, and that doesn’t improve education in the area.

DeKalb Inside Out

October 8th, 2012
10:47 am

Locally approved charters receive local funds … correct. State authorized/approved/created (refer to confusion in my last post) charters do not receive local funds. Therefore, for every student that goes to a State Charter, that leaves the local traditional public school with more money per child.

Speaking for DeKalb, we have a tyranny of the majority. The South DeKalb mafia controls a majority of the BOE votes and generally doesn’t care about North DeKalb. Generally speaking I’m in favor of choice. The more choices parents have the better. If a charter isn’t supported by the community then it will fail. Given my limited understanding of locally approved charters, seems like the local school district would have to much control over them to make it a fair market.

Please tell me what happened at Pataula Charter Academy.

Mary Elizabeth

October 8th, 2012
1:12 pm

For the reading audience:

Here is Jay Bookman’s expose regarding Gov. Deal’s use of his power in the ethics arena. Gov. Deal, as I had previously mentioned, supports the Consitutional Amendment. Dr. John Barge, state Superintendent of Schools, does not support it. There already exists a means to establish state charter schools and that means is through the State Board of Education. The Constitutional Amendment is unnecessary, imo.


I had also mentioned to readers that I would post a summary of Wayne Washington’s excellent article which was published yesterday in the AJC’s Metro Section, on the charter school movement in Georgia (using only Washington’s words), this morning on this thread. However, something has come up which will prevent me from posting that summary today. I will try to post it toward the end of this week, on the most current charter school thread that appears on this blog for the reading audience who does not subscribe to the paper version of the AJC. I cid not see Washington’s article online, unfortunately for readers throughout Georgia.

DeKalb Inside Out

October 8th, 2012
2:14 pm

Mary Elizabeth,
I don’t see where any state charter schools have been established since the Ga Supreme Court decision last year saying they weren’t authorized to do so. Do you know of any?

ChartersStarter, Too

October 8th, 2012
11:30 pm

@ Ron F. – Pataula is actually more racially diverse than the school systems they serve and is MUCH closer to the census data demographics, which correctly represents the demographics of the districts. Don’t be fooled by a school district that serves nearly 100% minority kids in a 50/50 district….they’ve been under a desegregation order for decades. And Ron, it was a HUGE effort to get Pataula started and the districts were pretty nasty, but they are RAISING ACHIEVEMENT for the kids in their community. They are doing good work – kids and parents are very happy.

@ DeKalb Inside and Out – James Touchton does a pretty good job summarizing, but it may also help to read the majority and minority opinions both to understand what the Supreme Court did:

The majority opinion – page 1 and 2 addresses “exclusive control” and state charter schools def. Interestingly, they defer “adequate public education” to the locals…and yet, isn’t it interesting that the locals expect the state to fund them and to pay for that “adequate education.” You can’t have it both ways – you either share responsibility or you don’t. http://scogblog.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/gwinnett-county-v-cox-majority-opinion.pdf

Now, check out the minority opinion from Nahmias (long, but an interesting read – first few pages are riveting, truly): http://scogblog.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/gwinnett-county-v-cox-nahmias-dissent.pdf and Melton’s as well: http://scogblog.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/gwinnett-county-v-cox-melton-dissent.pdf. Both are clear about the issue presented with the ruling.

In answer to your question – the state has authorized some schools since the ruling (the majority to ensure they didn’t have to close). The issue is whether this can be legally challenged, and based on members of the Supreme Court and the Attorney General, it could be. If it ever is (and given the “vote no to state approved schools” campaign, that seems very likely), then our charters would be in danger of closing. The opposition opposes the current charter funding and process- state charters are funded the same and have the same process, so it stands to reason they would oppose charters authorized by the SBOE as well.

The charters authorized this week were locally approved. They must enter into a contract with not only the local board, but the state as well. Hmmmm.

The old Commission’s funding was different from what was passed in 797. Old method included deducting from the district a proportionate amount of state funds that the charter lost in local funds. The districts pitched a fit (wanted to be funded for kids they didn’t teach) and sued. 797 PURPOSEFULLY ensured that districts would not be financially impacted.

Hope that helps.

[...] also raises the question — sidestepped by the Attorney General’s office when I asked last week – whether the Georgia Charter Schools Association, a trade group underwritten by tax dollars [...]

C Jae of EAV

October 9th, 2012
11:17 am

The confusion that may exist in the minds of voters regarding this admendment has nothing to do with the language on the ballot and has everything to do with the mis-information and in some cases outright lies being directed at voters to sway their choice in the voting booth.

We find ourselves in this position because the GA Supreme Court (GSC) in its ruling last year specifically indicated that the State has NO authority to create public schools. The GSC explictly asserted that only local school boards have the authority to authorize the creation of public schools. Thus the ballot measure before us attempts on one level to deal with this fundemental legal ruling.

The GSC did indicated the State has the ability to authorize “Special Schools” and provided a definition of what consistutes a “Special School”. Its under this definition of “Special Schools” that the State BOE has continued to authorize institutions outside of local board approval in the wake of the GSC ruling.

[...] So where does this email fall in that legal spectrum? [...]


October 19th, 2012
11:32 am

@ChartersStart, Too, Cenralized government is the root of most of this country’s problems.
Deaf ears without acocuntability to the electorate. That is what will result of state provided charter schools.

If the State can’t do it, maybe we should have the Federal Governemtn establishing local schools (sarcasm). You are sheep.


October 19th, 2012
11:35 am

The more centralized the government entity, the less accountability it has to the electorate.
I like having a voice and being able to change the direction of my school board members every two years.