Sam Olens orders local school boards to stay out of charter school fight

Attorney General Sam Olens this afternoon sent a letter to state School Superintendent John Barge, in which Olens ordered all local school boards to shut down any opposition to the proposed state constitutional amendment on charter schools that involves official time or taxpayer funds.

Olens’ ruling applies to school boards that endorse the measure as well. But by and large, local boards of education, particularly in rural Georgia, have been firmly against the November ballot measure. Many have passed resolutions condemning it.

Read the entire letter here. Wrote Olens:

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. They may not do this directly or indirectly through associations to which they may belong….

That means organizations like the Georgia School Boards Association, and perhaps, the Georgia School Superintendents Association, would be barred from speaking out against the proposed constitutional amendment.

Exactly who would enforce this neutrality appears to be an unsettled matter. Writes Olens:

You have also requested that I advise you regarding any duty that may exist to take enforcement action against local school boards that have violated this prohibition. I will provide that advice in a subsequent letter.

Emmet Bondurant, an Atlanta attorney who litigated one of the cases cited by Olens as a precedent, sent us this analysis of the attorney general’s opinion:

By his use of the term “indirectly, ” the AG’s letter means only that a local school board could not directly pay for an advertisement for or against an referendum, nor could it use public funds to pay for an advertisement indirectly, by funneling the funds through a third-party organization of which the local school board may, or may not be a member.

This does not mean, however, that local school board members may not speak out and advocate for or against ratification of a ballot measure. The Harrington case, which is the leading case cited in the AG’s opinion, makes that point crystal clear.

Note also that the AG’s opinion applies not only to local school boards, but also to charter schools that receive public funds as well. Although not mentioned in the opinion, the ban on the use of public funds to influence the outcome of an election or referendum, applies with equal force to Governor Deal and other state officials.

Given Glen Delk’s recent threats, I think that it is especially important that the narrowness of the AG’s opinion be made clear to local school board officials, as prohibiting only the expenditure of public funds and resources, and that it does not prohibit local superintendents or school board members from speaking out and campaigning against the charter school amendment.

I also want to point out that although the AG’s ruling is correct, it creates an political imbalance in the campaign for the hearts and minds of voters, by prohibiting local school boards from spending public funds to protect their autonomy and the diversion of public funds to charter schools, while allowing the for-profit charter schools, and wealthy ideologues like Mrs. Walton, to spend unlimited amounts of private funds on TV, print and direct mails aimed at persuading voters to ratify the amendment….

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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132 comments Add your comment

Shar

October 3rd, 2012
4:52 pm

Does this mean that the “100% of Georgia’s charter schools” that have pledged financial support to the pro-amendment forces are similarly muzzled?

Boy, Deal and Rogers will do anything, use any power at hand and promise anything to get this terrible – but terribly lucrative – amendment passed.

Holly Jones

October 3rd, 2012
4:56 pm

@Shar- I was wondering the same thing as I read this. So, the Georgia Charter Schools Association should be warned as well. Where is that letter, AG Olens?

Lynn43

October 3rd, 2012
5:03 pm

Why don’t we send the governor and Mr. Rogers a letter. The governor went “during the day” to bully the Gwinnette Chamber of Commerce who opposed the amendment and had a fund raiser planned for the opposition. The day after the governor’s speech, they went neutral and cancelled their fundraiser. I’m sure the governor didn’t drive himself. This visit was financed by taxpayer money. Mr. Olens, where is the governor’s letter.

Dean

October 3rd, 2012
5:04 pm

With 94% of their funds coming form out of state, I doubt Sam’s memo would have much of an impact.

Ron F.

October 3rd, 2012
5:09 pm

If this is the case, then the charter supporters who work for any entity receiving state funds would also be barred. I suspect there will be a flurry of legal action about this, and rightly so. If those working in the charter industry are allowed to spread money around and campaign for it, then those opposed who also receive state funds have the right to campaign against it.

Kris

October 3rd, 2012
5:14 pm

I smell a dirty rotten stinking DEAL…

This boondoggle needs to be nipped in the bud (Barny Fife commander of all police).

This is a POCKET lining SCAM for double DEAL/rogers and poor SAM is the puppet.

@ Shar “Boy, Deal and Rogers will do anything, use any power at hand and promise anything to get this terrible – but terribly lucrative – amendment passed.

Amen.

I will protest put signs in my Yard against this SCAM. Impeach DEAL recall Rogers.

God Bless President OBAMA .

OBAMA/Biden 2012

Bob Loblaw

October 3rd, 2012
5:14 pm

Dear AG Olens,

You will need the teachers support in your re-election and your run for Governor. They have long memories.

Yours truly,

Roy Barnes

Kris

October 3rd, 2012
5:17 pm

Any one know how to contact the group opposing this Charter School SCAM?

Is there a Group organized to recall DEAL?

crankee-yankee

October 3rd, 2012
5:17 pm

Big government is flexing its muscles all in the guise of “smaller government.”
The hypocrisy is delicious.

Raquel Morris

October 3rd, 2012
5:19 pm

@Holly Jones,

The Georgia Charter Schools Association is not a government agency.

Shar

October 3rd, 2012
5:20 pm

The Koch brothers are bankrolling a chunk of this, and their ALEC subsidiary has written the bills that their lap dog Chip Rogers has done everything he could to push through. Now, stymied by the Georgia Supreme Court, he is doing an end run so Nobody Gets In The Koch’s Way.

The Koches don’t live here, and they don’t have to live with the bad educational results, but they sure are set on laying claim to Georgia’s taxpayer dollars through contracts that will be handed out by the Legislature. Why didn’t we get rid of Rogers when we had the chance?

DJ Sniper

October 3rd, 2012
5:22 pm

Something is definitely rotten in Denmark. Where is it written that local school boards are required to support charter schools? I’ll bet my last $20 that if these same boards were in favor of charter schools, Mr. Olens and company would be all in favor for it.

DannyX

October 3rd, 2012
5:24 pm

“Does this mean that the “100% of Georgia’s charter schools” that have pledged financial support to the pro-amendment forces are similarly muzzled?”

As usual Shar is right on the mark. Great question.

Scrivener

October 3rd, 2012
5:29 pm

Sam Olens is a hundred percent right on this. Koch Brothers? Really? That’s getting to be as much of a joke as “it’s Bush’s fault.”

jconservative

October 3rd, 2012
5:32 pm

Thanks for the heads up Sam. I will be sure to vote NO.

April

October 3rd, 2012
5:38 pm

I bet all the negative comments are from 99% from teachers afraid of options in education

Public School Parent

October 3rd, 2012
5:39 pm

Sam Olens, you just lost my vote and any remaining shred of credibility.

3schoolkids

October 3rd, 2012
5:42 pm

Does that mean Nancy Jester must also take down the link to her blog on the Dekalb School Board website?

The old Georgia Charter School Commission website (was archived on Georgia.gov) is gone as well. Now no one can research the decisions they made from 2008 to 2011. Wonder who is behind that?

Charter Parent

October 3rd, 2012
5:42 pm

Good call, Sam.

GA Citizen

October 3rd, 2012
5:46 pm

What happened to the reasonable, judicious Chairman of the Cobb County Commission? Wow, ambition turns people into something ugly.

Kris Jones

October 3rd, 2012
5:49 pm

GOOD!
Vote for the Mormon NOT the Moron!!!

Trip

October 3rd, 2012
5:50 pm

I am not sure why some readers think that charter schools are some big business conspiracy. Most charters are non profit corporations set up similar to a hospital (like Piedmont). The real story here is that local school boards are using tax dollars to lobby against a constitutional amendment. Charter schools are not owned by the government and are not using government funds to lobby the public. Charters receive some of their funding from local school boards but many receive grants from prestigious and not so well known charities and foundations.

JDW

October 3rd, 2012
5:51 pm

I was leaning against the amendment and now I am over the edge. I do find it strange :roll: that there was no mention of a ban on supporting the amendment.

Sandra

October 3rd, 2012
5:52 pm

Sounds like absolute blackmail to me…but that is the way our state works. And no I am not a teacher but I think it is absolutely ludicrous to give private entities who will have NO accountability money to ‘educate’ our children. There are other ways to do this. Our state legislature is looking to continue to line their pockets and have their children attend private school for free. Chip Rogers….what a guy! I just don’t understand how people vote for this man.
Of course, in Georgia, you don’t really get any choices. It’s the ones with the biggest pocketbooks.

JDW

October 3rd, 2012
5:53 pm

@Trip…”charters are non profit corporations set up similar to a hospital ”

Then let them work with the local school baords to create a charter that works rather than making an end run to the state.

*

October 3rd, 2012
5:54 pm

CHARTER SCHOOL SAVED MY SON!

I’ve lived every parent’s nightmare in the public school system. When you’ve gone through what we’ve gone through, you mud slingers will change your tune. Charter schools are not taking over. Charter schools are not doing a disservice to anyone. If a charter school does not perform, it will be shut down. Now, how many county schools in Clayton County or City of Atlanta have been shut down due to poor performance? Charter schools are competition to the monopoly BOE’s. Competition brings change, and you better get your heads out of the sand if you think this state, and this country, does not need it.

Joseph Wilson

October 3rd, 2012
5:58 pm

Sam Olens must have got his law degree from one of discount online universities without accreditation. His opinion would not hold up in federal court as it is a violation of free speech. Republicans take a page from the Communist Manifesto.

Dunwoody Mom

October 3rd, 2012
5:59 pm

What about school board members that use their school board websites to promote the Charter School Amendment?

CG Jones

October 3rd, 2012
5:59 pm

Visit http://www.votesmartgeorgia.com to see a Fact Sheet concerning this amendment as well as myths vs facts surrounding the change to the state constitution. There is also a link to donate to the group to help off set the millions of dollars coming from out of state to to support this amendment.

STINKY

October 3rd, 2012
6:00 pm

Well, Deal, Olens, and Rogers just made up a boat load (no pun intended) of voters’ minds here. Further, Charter schools do receive taxpayer dollars, so of course, they should be held to the same standards….The Gwinnett Chamber is a wuss…….

Wallis the dog

October 3rd, 2012
6:01 pm

Galloway, you old capon, since the dawn of time school boards have sent kids home from school clutching propaganda in favor of school bond indebtedness to deliver to their parents. I am thankful for this small check on inappropriate political activity by government employees.

Dunwoody Mom

October 3rd, 2012
6:01 pm

Nothing but pure bullying on the part of the Charter School Amendment supporters.

Old timer

October 3rd, 2012
6:02 pm

Travesty here….taking power from local boards…to give to state cronies…..

**

October 3rd, 2012
6:03 pm

Amen *…sounds like these teacher’s union posts above know there time is limited…we have good teachers and bad and continually fall in rank vs the world…we are the laughing stock…cut the fat out of Atlanta city schools, cut the central office…PLEASE!

Old timer

October 3rd, 2012
6:05 pm

Travesty here….taking power from local boards…to give to state cronies…..And …I am a retired teacher who believes in the charter idea and school choice. I just do not want another politically appointed board…not accountable to the public. Set up an appeals process through the state board of education.

NOTO#1

October 3rd, 2012
6:05 pm

I find it interesting that the governor can go to Gwinnett, be the keynote speaker for the kickoff banquet for the Charter Amendment effort and yet school board members no less duly elected by the people than him cannot open their mouth nor potentially their organization? It seems disparate that it is all right for Senator Chip Rogers to speak what he thinks about the amendment in his official capacity but local board members in Cherokee County cannot? I am thinking there are a lot of scared people on the other side of this issue if they are willing to stoop to such a low level.

Dunwoody Mom

October 3rd, 2012
6:06 pm

WSBTV just had an interview with that sleezebag Glenn Delk. He indicated if school boards who issued official statements against the amendement do not now issue statements saying they are neutral he will sue those boards. But, hey, it’s all for the children, right??

CG Jones

October 3rd, 2012
6:08 pm

“*” Not every parent has nightmares about public schools. I am a parent with 2 children in public schools and I am exceptionally pleased with the education that my children are receiving. The opposition to this amendment is not opposition to charter schools. I think there are charter schools out there who are doing a fine job, as well as charters that are not doing a great job (not unlike public schools). The opposition is about taking control away from local governments, creating a government entity that does not answer to any constituency, duplicating a duty that is already been given to the State Board of Education (who does answer to voters) and creating another layer of government (the new State Charter Schools) that will either create millions more in tax obligations to fund the schools, or will more than likely further erode local public school budgets that have already been slashed billions of dollars over the last 8 years.

This is not about opposing Charter Schools, this is about supporting public schools and keeping local control over the education of children.

The Truth

October 3rd, 2012
6:08 pm

If anyone other than bloggers read this…folks, please know that there is a large “secret” network of people devoted to blogging on every news site in this state to undermine the charter amendment. I’ve seen it in action, and it’s disgusting.

3schoolkids

October 3rd, 2012
6:11 pm

Charter schools are government schools! They get their funding from TAX DOLLARS! So, I am fully expecting Sam Olens to investigate all of the charter schools that belong to the Georgia Charter Schools Association and pay a membership fee to determine if those fees were paid with tax dollars. Also, I expect all charter board’s email accounts be checked to see if any taxpayer dollars were used to campaign for the amendment. How about all of the schools that participated in making the movie “Making The Grade”? Were any school resources used, was it filmed during school hours, did charter school teachers and administrators use any “government” time on the film?

Ivy Prep has parent sessions regarding the amendment listed on their website, are they using government funds to run their website? How about students that participated in rallies at the Capitol during school hours? Were their absences excused?

*

October 3rd, 2012
6:11 pm

So, because your kids have a decent school, forget the rest of them? When “local governments” are only self-serving and scurrying like a cat in a litter box to cover their mess?

Thank Goodness for Charter Schools

October 3rd, 2012
6:11 pm

April has nailed it on the head. Very sad and shameful GA Teachers! Thought it was about the kids, until we entered the public school realm. It is all about power and control of the local school system school boards and the unionized/tenured/retirement worried teachers. Let’s focus on who is against it and why?? READ UP ON THE AMENDMENT, State Approved Charter Schools will not take from the local school systems. In fact, the county will still get my two kids 10/12 grand whether they go to the districted school or not. In other words, you are still taking my tax dollars and putting it towards your establishment/system you call a school. Talk about greed! County schools have no accountability when it comes to failure rates. If they fail, so be it. If a Charter fails, it is held accountable. Us parents are sick of being bullied by local school boards and teachers that no longer deserve to teach. We are on to you and are on a mission to take education back in GA. We are 49th in the nation. From the way some of you are speaking, you would think we are the cream of the crop for education. Sue me for wanted better for my kids!

Luny

October 3rd, 2012
6:12 pm

Whether the schools themselves receive gov’t money or not, the Georgia Charter School Association is a private 501(c)(3) and don’t receive gov’t money, so no, they would not be muzzled. Further, no one said the local school boards had to support charter schools, they were told they could not support either side and must remain neutral. I’m still trying to figure out why the local school boards and teacher’s unions are so opposed to charter schools. If it is all about educating the children, what difference does it matter where they are educated? Personally, I would like to return to the way education was handled prior to the compulsory education laws that were pushed by progressives in the 1920’s, ’30’s and ’40’s. Schools were run by LOCAL governments, not the state and certainly not the federal government.

There is an excellent book by John Taylor Gatto that discusses this in depth called “Dumbing us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling”

3schoolkids

October 3rd, 2012
6:17 pm

Glenn Delk is not just pro choice, he is pro voucher. Doesn’t really matter if the amendment passes, if it doesn’t they will just go straight to voucher legislation next year.

This from the man who tried unsuccessfully 20 years ago to resurrect forgotten “anti-integration” legislation to force school boards to pay private tuition for students who wanted out of the school system.

Dunwoody Dad

October 3rd, 2012
6:18 pm

Hey Dunwoody Mom,

You said “What about school board members that use their school board websites to promote the Charter School Amendment?” I assume you reference Nancy Jester’s personal blog and web site? Nancy, who has worked hard to uncover the corruption in your district, can speak all she wants on her personal blog (there is no such thing as a school board member website). And Gene Walker can continue to write Op-Ed pieces for the biased Champion newspaper as a resident of DeKalb. What the Atty Gen says is that a school board cannot put out a statement, but the individual members can. You don’t lose your rights when you become a public office holder.

jane langley

October 3rd, 2012
6:19 pm

Charter schools get local funding. Charter schools get state funding. What happened to dissent in a democracy? Yes, the Gov and his people shut down the Gwinnett Chamber. And GA’s technical colleges. And took photos of license plates when the opposition had a meeting. Deal, Rogers, Jan Jones, Alisha Morgan (and her husband who lobbies for one of these out of state corporations) can campaign for the amendment and those who are opposed are threatened and bullied. Follow the money, money, money.

Yes, the Kochs – and for profit corporations itching to make money here are funding this. Look at the most recent financial disclosure reports. And while you’re at it, check out all the FBI investigations into these corporations. Not one word in the legislation requiring – or suggesting -parental involvement.

GA already has choices. They’re called public, private, charter (yes, charter), magnet and home schools. What taxpayer wants to spend $1 million/year to pay for this small (7 people) group appointed by the Gov to make decisions about schools? Not me.

Read what the opposition says on its still-allowed web site: http://www.votesmartgeorgia.com. And vote NO.

RD

October 3rd, 2012
6:21 pm

Trip, you say that Charter Schools are not big business? Then why pray tell are out of state for profit charter school corporations spending millions to help pass the amendment?

But now Olens is preventing School Board Associations from exercising their right to disagree with Dirty Deal and Slick Rogers? So it’s ok for the power brokers to ram the amendment down our throats without opposition?

You realize that the Georgia prison system is gradually being turned over to for profit corporations and now our schools are headed in that direction.

Deal, Rogers, & Jan Jones pockets are being lined by ALEC, Charter Schools Corporations, Prison Inc. etc. I don’t like either Rep or Demo I just detest corruption. Please check for yourself http://www.alec.org to see the agenda and how ALEC is writing legislation for our elected officials to push their agenda NOT the will of the people of Georgia.

You may want to start stocking up on Brown Shirts and Jack Boots. Peace

Dunwoody Mom

October 3rd, 2012
6:23 pm

Oh, I see, The Champion is biased, but Nancy’s website is not. Gotcha….

I find it very troubling that a sitting board of education member would advocate for legislation that would take further money away from the school children she/he professes to represent.

Of course, since my last few email’s have not been answered, I guess grudges are held if constitutent views clash?

Gwinnett Tax Payer

October 3rd, 2012
6:24 pm

Ivy Prep in Gwinnett has a huge page dedicated to supporting the amendment. My tax dollars fund that school. Shouldn’t that page be taken down since it is not neutral?

CG Jones

October 3rd, 2012
6:24 pm

Hey **, do a little research before you start making totally uneducated remarks about teachers unions. First of all look around, there are no teachers unions in the state of Georgia, or any other state in the southeast. There are teachers associations and organizations, but these groups have no union affiliation or power to negotiate with employers over compensation, benefits, work environment, etc. See if you can find a sample teacher “contract” for any teacher in the state. They basically have the teachers over a barrel in a take or leave it position. So you won’t see any teachers holding strikes in Georgia. If they did, they would be fired on the spot.

As is so typical these days, teachers are made out to be the villans in all of these situations when in reality they are the ones that actually have the least amount of power or influence to change anything. You want to see change in education? Then work to empower the teachers to have more control over how students are educated. They were trained, many with multiple degrees, to do this. I can tell you that Chip Rogers has never been trained as an educator or Deal for that matter.

Why don’t we have a charter police department available to citizens. Do you see how many people are speeding everyday and committing crimes. Obviously the police provided by government don’t know what they’re doing or else there would be no crime. So let’s take away their radios and guns and patrol cars and give them to provate security companies to wipe out crime in our state.

Sound crazy…?