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

momoftwo

October 3rd, 2012
10:20 pm

Yall are crazy because u r mad ur political flunkies have been silenced. CHARTER Usa has stayed out of the fight as have the schools and teachers. This is NOT A DUPLICATED service. The state BOE doesn’t have the power to create schools. That is why this amendment is needed. The courts have ruled this unconstitutional! If this amendment passes then all the schools the state Hoe has pit into place will be challenged and dismantled. These people are spreading lies, so they can keep the kids down and keep a monopoly. Just think where else can u get a job that u cant get fired from very easily, you don’t have to show production AND u get a raise every year. Every other job if u don’t produce u get fired and u dang sure don’t. Get a raise.

Simply put

October 3rd, 2012
10:31 pm

Im not as concerned about the subject of this amendment as I am with the intent. It greatly concerns me that when the Georgia Supremes tell them what they have done is unconstitutional, their attitude is thats ok we’ll just amend that little problem.

Trip

October 3rd, 2012
10:37 pm

I have noticed quite a few people complaining that the pro charter groups are being funded by out of state interests out to earn profit from the new system. I am sure that they are funding this campaign based on ideological reasons not a profit motive. These organizations want parents nationwide to have a choice on where their children are educated. They see our situation as a first step down this road.

Public School Parent

October 3rd, 2012
11:06 pm

That’s funny Trip…good one this late at night.

The state BOE does have the right to create charters momoftwo. If local boe does not approve charter school, charter proposal can appeal to state BOE. WHAT IS THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Who this will hurt is rural Georgia. These profit seeking charter corporations are looking at Atlanta to start charter schools, but rural Georgia schools will suffer when QBE is cut to fund state created charter schools. All school allotments will be cut. Your precious Atlanta children will have your precious school choice. The rural students who do not have a choice because the money hungry charter corporations will not try to open charter schools in poor, rural Georgia will suffer because their local school budgets will be cut.

Atlanta crap messes with the rest of Georgia as usual.

honested

October 3rd, 2012
11:19 pm

tip,

Parents already have that option.
Of course, the companies want unlimited access to taxpayer funds in order to promote their unproven and dubious ‘educational’ experiments.

I have some additional ideas to suck the public till dry and enhance my bank account if you would like to discuss them.

reformed repub.

October 3rd, 2012
11:19 pm

there is a reason that these folks are fighting so hard and so dirty to pass this amendment and it’s called MONEY!! Deal can appoint the commission and they can hire all their buddies to set up for profit schools and everybody makes tons of money.

Kris

October 3rd, 2012
11:20 pm

Trip, “campaign based on ideological reasons not a profit motive.”

What the hell you smoking……A not for profit company wants to come to Ga to help…

0 to 10 Bullcrap….!10+

honested

October 3rd, 2012
11:21 pm

Simply Put,

That is why it is CRITICAL to prevent a 2/3 majority in the OnePartyState after November.
Just think of how many ‘inconveniences’ will be forced back onto the taxpayers if there is no opposition to check them.

honested

October 3rd, 2012
11:22 pm

I never thought sam olens would stoop this low this fast.

I once thought he was an honorable man.

honested

October 3rd, 2012
11:24 pm

momoftwo,

Don’t tell me, let me guess, you were homeschooled right?

Ron F.

October 3rd, 2012
11:25 pm

reformed: and they’ll get to do it with less regulation and less accountability to voters who cannot directly affect the commission or change it. That, to me, means the companies see a potential windfall of profits. They’re throwing out a lot of good lines to get people to believe they are ever so altruistic, but watch how quickly they run if the schools don’t generate the profits the companies seek. They’ll shut them down and take what they’ve made and run, leaving the families who enrolled in their schools with no options but the schools they left.

Kara Martin

October 3rd, 2012
11:26 pm

The issue is not about the school board members advocating for or against the amendment. It is that they are doing so when they are suppose to be managing the school system. If they want to advocate, do it on their own time. After work hours, create a separate organization, blog, talk to the news when NOT on the tax payers dime. And as far as the schools hosting forums about the amendment here is the difference. When my Charter School hosted such a forum they did NOT once tell people to vote yes or no. They strictly explained what the amendment meant, what is would create and the facts surrounding the financial impact (numbers). Not one time while on school property while using school funds has the admin, board or employee lobbied for parents to vote one way or the other. Unfortunately that has not been the case with district schools (for instance at curriculum night at several Cherokee schools half the time was spent telling parents that they need to VOTE no and giving opinions on the amendment. You can not do this, it is ILLEGAL! The boards are also not allowed to create a resolution asking voters to vote one way or the other…..that relates to district and public charter schools. Charters have not done this. Go ahead and look, no where on any charter school sites does it say for people to VOTE YES. Although that is not the case on local district boards sites. My Charter School’s principal has turned down flyers, brochures, and many other items to pass out to parents because it specifically said to Vote yes. Why? Because it is illegal for school systems to do so. The law is very clear and has been for years.

[...] Sam Olens orders local school boards to stay out of charter school fight 4:48 pm October 3, 2012, by jgalloway [...]

momoftwo

October 4th, 2012
12:09 am

momoftwo

October 4th, 2012
12:10 am

Read this article. I believe it says it all!

Kris

October 4th, 2012
12:45 am

Kara ” Because it is illegal for school systems to do so. The law is very clear and has been for years.”

If the law is so clear We should expect that our elected officials abide by the law as well as us.

It looks like they only abide by the clear law only when its convention for their cause.

VOTE NO to CHARTER schools

rawmilkdrinker

October 4th, 2012
6:35 am

I’ve paid attention to Ga politics and it’s political charactor’s shenanigans long enough to know that there will be a lot of foxes guarding the henhouse on this charter school amendment if it passes.

The bottomline on education is that if parents expect their child to learn new things and behave, then it doesn’t matter where one goes to school;public, private, parochial,charter, home, or self taught, in order to get good results.

Lynn43

October 4th, 2012
7:21 am

Kara, I can tell that you know very little about school boards. 1. Most school board members have “day” jobs. Those that don’t sure couldn’t survive on what little is paid to board members 2. Some may get a stipend or expense money for each regular meeting. 3. I receive NO salary, compensation, or expense money to serve, therefore, I dare Mr. Olens to try to silence me. I’m just careful to pick my places, but I am available 24/7 to speak against amendment 1. Again, I say, this is not about the creation of charter schools as this will happen whether or not the amendment passes. This is about out-of-state for-profit management companies taking over education. I’ve dealt very closely with one for several years, and they don’t tell the truth, are not honest, and are not at all interested in student education but are seeing big bucks for their shareholders, the legislators, and themselves.

honested

October 4th, 2012
7:55 am

Lynn43,

Those that don’t understand the truth you are speaking demonstrate their lack of involvement with their local schools.
I shows how talk radio is a poor source for information on local education.

Elizabeth

October 4th, 2012
9:10 am

Once again, opposers are trying to manipulate the facts !!! The fact is that districts have been using state money and time to TELL people how to vote , not educate citizens on how great their school is (bc sometimes they can’t ) ….. Charter schools have not spent one dime or office time to tell anyone HOW to vote … They have spent money an time on educating parents … You have to face it …. There is a difference but opposers are too blind to see it and for goodness sake, read the whole letter from th AG and you will see that it was in response to a request by Barge

Lynn43

October 4th, 2012
9:17 am

I’m going to do some research on this as I have two private charter schools in my district. I can assure you that they have been telling people how to vote, I just have to find the evidence.

[...] Georgia’s Attorney General Sam Olens ordered school boards around the state to shut down efforts to oppose the state’s proposed charter school amendment that happen during school time or use official funds. (AJC) [...]

First Amendment Controls

October 4th, 2012
11:14 am

The AG opinion is perhaps unintentionally misleading in that it skips over some major wrinkles that would better explain the prohibition of use of public funds for electoral advocacy. The major wrinkle is “what is “advocacy”? The case law under the First Amendment on this issue interprets that very narrowly. The School Boards are free to put out objective educational material that is not “advocacy.”

GaBlue

October 4th, 2012
11:24 am

Sam can suck it. This amendment is just another oligarchy-driven step in the systematic destruction of public education, in little baby steps they hope we won’t notice. Public education is what made the American dream possible for the millions who came here from places where only the wealthy had any decent education, and a permanent underclass did their bidding for life, with no chance of upward mobility.

Reject this anti-American move by the new plantation-master wannabees who run this state, and the billionaires who help fund their efforts. Vote NO on this thinly-veiled ruse.

Thank you.

First Amendment Controls

October 4th, 2012
11:46 am

Not sure how Olens missed the State Ethics in Government Act, the United States Supreme Court opinions on this and the First Amendment in his opinion but, he did.

Really?

October 4th, 2012
11:48 am

If Romney wins, Charter all the way! YEA!

Carol

October 4th, 2012
12:42 pm

I don’t have a problem with charter schools. I understand they have some value. But when you look at all of the issues that should qualify for an amendment to the State Constitution, charter schools isn’t even on my list. That fact alone makes it suspect to me.

The second, and biggest problem I have is the fact that it would give control to a body of people that I have no say about. Once again the party of small government wants to add a layer of bureaucracy, call it something else and act the people to believe it’s not more government.

Carol

October 4th, 2012
12:43 pm

Sam Olens did a great job in Cobb County. I don’t know who this person is in the AG’s office.

Frank

October 4th, 2012
12:51 pm

So we can censor school board members and censo John Barge and prevent them from exercising their freedom because they are elected officials but other public officials like the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and state legislators are free to speal in support of this amendment. Haven’t we fought wars to suppress totalitarian government and suprression of those who don’t like what the state is doing? Is that the new mode of government in this state now in which some elected officials are permitted to voice their views on an issue and others aren”t? Tom Murphy is rolling over in his grave.

Elizabeth

October 4th, 2012
1:10 pm

Lynn43… You have way too much time on your hands

From the Other Georgia

October 4th, 2012
2:04 pm

Sambo,
You need to go back to Cobb County or New Jersey and take Chip Rogers with you. Remember as Lewis Grizzard said, “Delta is ready when you are!” if you want NJ; try Marta to Cobb County.

bdawg

October 4th, 2012
2:32 pm

Trip:

Public schools must take all students that walk in their doors….do charter schools have to adhere to the same standards? NO.