Atlanta attorney and charter school advocate Glenn Delk has finally filed that lawsuit against 180 school districts in Georgia, alleging that along with “the Education Empire,” they have been engaged in a “coordinated campaign and conspiracy” to defeat the November ballot question on charter schools.
Signing onto the lawsuit are Rae Anne Harkness, a charter school parent from DeKalb County; Rich Thompson, founder and CEO of 100Dads; Kelley O’Bryan Gary, chairman of the Jackson County GOP; Kara Martin; and Allen Hughes.
Read the lawsuit here. Some excerpts:
This case is brought by individual taxpayers and registered voters of Georgia who believe in the rule of law and the right of taxpayers to freely exercise their right to vote on the Amendment without Defendants and entities such as the teachers unions, the Georgia School Boards Association, the Georgia School Superintendents Association and others (collectively known as the “Education Empire”) using taxpayer money in a blatant attempt to defeat the amendment….
A first hearing on the lawsuit has been scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Wendy Shoob. One wonders how this “Education Empire” language will play with her. The suit alleges that members of the Education Empire receive $11 million a year in taxpayer funding.
But to continue with the lawsuit:
Specifically, these individuals allege that Defendant Fulton, Defendant Gwinnett and the Districts, as well as the Education Empire are engaged in a coordinated campaign and conspiracy to avoid the constitutional and statutory prohibition against public officials using public resources to engage in political activity in support or opposition to the Amendment.
The Defendants are using tax dollars to fund a campaign to defeat the Amendment in order to retain their current monopoly power over public education in Georgia…..
Question for you lawyers out there: “Conspiracy” sounds like a fairly specific charge that would require specific evidence. Is it solely a criminal offense, or is it something that carries weight in a civil action like this? More:
This campaign is being managed, implemented and directed by one of the Education Empire’s members, the GSBA, who convened a meeting in June 2012 to “educate” school boards throughout Georgia on how to oppose the Amendment.
Plaintiffs have obtained an audio recording of this meeting, which is Exhibit “3” to this Complaint. While the title of the session was “Communicating About Ballot Initiatives,” in reality, the executive direct of the GSBA spent an hour teaching school board members how to conduct a campaign to defeat the Amendment….
Attendees at the meeting were told they needed to lobby school staff and employees, chambers of commerce, booster clubs and parents to view the Amendment as: 1) taxation without representation, and 2) and attempt to build a dual school system. The speaker is heard telling attendees that opponents of the Amendment have formed a coalition with includes every member of the education establishment, to urge voters to vote no….
The lawsuit demands that the state’s school systems – Oh, let’s go ahead and say it: The Education Empire — be ordered not to use any public or official resources in opposition to Amendment 1; that they be barred from funding any third-party entity to oppose Amendment 1; that no “agent, employee, servant, attorney or independent entity” be allowed to disseminate anti-charter school material at public schools during business hours.
If nothing else, this lawsuit will require members of the so-called Education Empire to spend scarce dollars on lawyers. As it is probably intended to do.
It also appears to wade into First Amendment and political territory that judges aren’t usually eager to shut down. And which could have many unintended consequences if ruthlessly enforced.
For instance, a story written last week by my AJC colleague Wayne Washington referred to Attorney General Sam Olens’ order reminding school officials not to expend public resources on either side of the charter school campaign, and state School Superintendent John Barge’s decision to remove his statements opposing the measure from the state Department of Education website. The article included these paragraphs:
[Gov. Nathan] Deal’s spokesman, Brian Robinson, said the governor’s office will also remove from its website any suggestion of how Georgians should vote on the proposed amendment.
“While it’s well within the governor’s rights to explain to Georgians where he stands on the issue, we are happy to play by the same rules as the superintendent’s office, ” Robinson said. “The governor, however, will not stop working to give every Georgia family school choice so that no child is trapped hopelessly in a failing school.”
Robinson, as Deal’s communications director, is a state employee whose salary is funded by you and me. And he just appeared to endorse Amendment 1. So is that something a judge can or should enjoin?
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider