Lawsuit alleges ‘Education Empire’ conspiracy to defeat charter school measure

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

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53 comments Add your comment

GaBlue

October 8th, 2012
3:40 pm

There are already charter schools in Georgia. They just have to get approval from local jurisdictions in order to operate. Most do. There are plenty of them, and if there’s one in your community, then you have a voice in keeping it accountable via the reps on your local school board. This amendment would take that right away from you, and give it to an appointed state board. More government, benefiting fewer people. It’s a ruse, and the outside money coming here to push the amendment is solid evidence that this is NOT about education in Georgia.

Say NO to amending our Constitution on the whim of a few self-serving businessmen with state government connections.

MANGLER

October 8th, 2012
3:45 pm

You have a public entity being forced to follow campaign laws vs private entities who are not. The pro-charter school side gets to do and say whatever it wants using whatever money it wants, and they are arguing that their opposition shouldn’t be able to do the same thing. It would seem that the board of education should form their own SuperEPac so they can fight fire with fire.

Oh boy

October 8th, 2012
3:50 pm

Who paid for Deal’s travel to Gwinnett where he lobbied the Gwinnett Chamber to withdraw its opposition to amendment 1? Who pays for legislators Rogers, Morgan and Jones’ advocacy? Was it ok for taxpayers to pay for Deal to sign his pro-amendment 1 bill at a charter school in Cherokee Co.? For charter school children to appear in their uniforms to advocate? For this same school to boast on their web site that their students rallied at the capital with Alisha Morgan on this? Charter schools also get taxpayer funds. Folks, we’ve got some very serious freedom of speech rights being stuffed when only one side of an issue can peak out. Wow.

Jon Lester

October 8th, 2012
4:04 pm

If this thing passes, Georgia parents may find their children trapped in a failing state.

Tinkerella

October 8th, 2012
4:10 pm

That’s how crooks like Deal play….people need to wake up. This is nothing but a cash grab for the politicians who will get their payday for this being crammed through. As GaBlue already stated, charter schools can operate here already! We don’t need RawDeal’s unethical money grab.

reformed repub.

October 8th, 2012
4:11 pm

dirty tricks

ByteMe

October 8th, 2012
4:12 pm

And he just appeared to endorse Amendment 1. So is that something a judge can or should enjoin?

Won’t happen. I’m Judge Shoob, I require discovery from both sides and specific OCGA paragraphs to back up the claims before moving forward. And then I schedule the next hearing in a 30 days… the day after the election. :)

ByteMe

October 8th, 2012
4:14 pm

“The Empire Strikes Back”

:)

DJ Sniper

October 8th, 2012
4:14 pm

Jon, Georgia is already damn near at the bottom when it comes to education. I’m not sure how much further it could fall.

From what I’m hearing, there is quite a bit of opposition to this amendment all over the state. Let’s hope people show up in November and let their voices be heard.

Lastly, can you believe the nerve of these people? The “Education Empire?” Give me a f*****g break.

Tinkerella

October 8th, 2012
4:18 pm

And all the while these same politicians have been slashing educational funding for years now. And this is their idea of a fix for Georgia’s education? Really, now! C’mon folks….you gotta be a little smarter than that.

NotYou

October 8th, 2012
4:24 pm

As a conservative voter, I certainly hope those elected officials pushing amendment #1 who claim to be conservative themselves will be held accountable. Form another board, create more government, use more of Georgia taxpayer money to duplicate what is already in place, remove local control. Wow. Vote NO.

cc

October 8th, 2012
4:25 pm

Just another day in Georgia politics . . .

Stomp Big Bird!

Kris

October 8th, 2012
4:27 pm

To ponder should the charter school boondoggle happen? Georgia is 49th in education that will give us 2 school systems Will that make Ga. 98th in education?

Was The North Atlanta High School interim principal dismissal from his position Friday Just another smokescreen to hide another Shady DEAL. Typical Davis move catch people off guard on late Friday when they probably have no access to legal counsel…It happened a lot when he was at the BOR (another shady DEAL).
Was this another smoke screen by Enrolled Davis to hide more shady DEAL’s.

Save Big Bird
Vote NO Charter Schools boondoggle.

Me

October 8th, 2012
4:27 pm

No need for the school board to spend any more opposing the amendment. This lawsuit and the governor’s efforts have done more than enough to shed light on the real reason for the push. The Vote No side should offer thanks to these groups.

What next!

October 8th, 2012
4:28 pm

Correct, Mangler. That is pretty well the way the laws are set up throughout this nation (not just GA) and have been for over 300 years. How could one be educated enough to discuss the subject and not know that?

Kris

October 8th, 2012
4:30 pm

@ Me “This lawsuit and the governor’s efforts have done more than enough to shed light on the real reason for the push. The Vote No side should offer thanks to these groups.”

It was worth it to say again .

Thank You school board for shedding more light on this boondoggle.

Vote No!

Save Big Bird.

ClayCoParent

October 8th, 2012
4:33 pm

I have to admit that I was a bit surprised at our first public school function last week to be handed a postcard by one of the school employees about this ballot item. It was a bit sad when the (I’m assuming teacher???) appeared in front of a classroom gathered to create art projects lobbying against this amendment. His comments were something to the effect of, “Vote this down to keep our public schools what they are today…if that is what you want.” I had to wonder if in the back of his mind he was remembering that Clayton County has again been put on notice by SACS. Not feeling very warm and fuzzy about the public schools today in this state (especially in our county), so I’m almost ready to vote for anything against the current plan.

Tinkerella

October 8th, 2012
4:37 pm

This isn’t the way, CCparent. Things need to change but we need a better plan. I want change also but not so that RawDeal and his band of crooks can benefit.

jd

October 8th, 2012
4:38 pm

Campaign 101 — Free Media — for the cost of a lawsuit (just a few hundred dollars), and the donated time of this attorney, the pro charter forces can get their message out free to every county newspaper, radio station, and tv station across this state. And, it is all done at taxpayer expense! (rest assured the costs of filing do not include the costs of court, nor the expenses soon to be borne by all of the taxpayer organizations now a party to this waste of taxpayer money (yes. Mr. Delk is wasting our money). Oh, the irony!!!!

cc

October 8th, 2012
4:39 pm

Kris@4:27 pm:

“Save Big Bird”

People who pay any attention at all to Sesame Street know that it is the leftists’ first and best shot at the indoctrination of the very young children of this country. PBS now advertises, and they do even more ‘begging’. While they have produced and run some very good programming, it does not offset the damage done to young and impressionable minds. For that reason, I will NEVER donate any money to PBS and I deeply resent that even one cent that I pay in taxes is used to fund their liberal agenda.

Let PBS sink or swim on their own ability to attract and keep advertisers. Stop the government funding of PBS.

Stomp Big Bird flat!

td

October 8th, 2012
4:40 pm

“1) taxation without representation, and 2) and attempt to build a dual school system.”

Point 1 is the truth and point 2 is maybe a half truth. I will still vote against this amendment and probably all the other amendments as well.

cc

October 8th, 2012
4:47 pm

td@4:40 pm:

Have you mailed in your Florida absentee ballot yet?

Jeffrey

October 8th, 2012
4:48 pm

Glad to see a lot of vote no. The only thing worse than this amendment is this lawsuit that seems born out of fear.

td

October 8th, 2012
5:00 pm

cc

October 8th, 2012
4:47 pm

I mailed it in last week and am planning to early vote here in Ga. this week. I guess it is good to own multiple properties in multiple states.

DJ Sniper

October 8th, 2012
5:01 pm

CC, you are truly off your rocker. There’s nothing about Sesame Street that says anything about “indoctrination” which is just conservative talk for “kids aren’t being taught the lessons that we think they should be taught.” I have yet to run across anybody who’s mind has been damaged from Sesame Street. Your mind, however, is a different story.

td

October 8th, 2012
5:08 pm

Wow, It appears that all the money Obama has spent on negative advertising has backfired in one debate and now the people see that Romney can be President:

New Pew poll: Romney 48%, Obama 45%

http://www.people-press.org/2012/10/08/romneys-strong-debate-performance-erases-obamas-lead/

cc

October 8th, 2012
5:09 pm

td@5:00 pm:

Yes, it is! I’ve already mailed in my NC, SC and TN ballots, and will mail my AL, MS and LA tomorrow. I also plan the ‘early vote’ thing here. It’s good to be active!

clanmack

October 8th, 2012
5:11 pm

This is a power grab and a money grab taking tax dollars levied at the local level and away from our local school boards and putting it in the hands of unelected state officials. Local school boards can make these decisions, as evidenced by the charter schools already in operation. If the amendment included a requirement that each school had to be located in a district with high unemployment, low economic levels, high percentages of kids eligible for school lunches, low test scores or other measures of need, then maybe. So far this is a boondoggle for parents who can already afford to put their kids in private schools. The statistics from charter schools in operation now don’t prove the are better than the public schools the kids have come from.
And I thought the Republicans were for “less government.” They are just out for power and money. This administration is no better and probably worse. Sonny wasn’t this bad, he just didn’t do much (a VERY GOOD thing!).

DJ Sniper

October 8th, 2012
5:15 pm

Negative advertising? The Romney campaign has done more than their fair share of that as well, not to mention flat out lying. As for those poll results, you are so predictable. You are so quick to post poll results when they favor Romney, but when they favor Obama, you sing a different tune. You do know that these results will change several times before the election.

cc

October 8th, 2012
5:21 pm

“You do know that these results will change several times before the election.”

Forget the polls. Just wait for the election results. You have sang among the very loudest about Obama’s inevitable re-election. It will be nice to hear your ‘swan song’ after the votes are tallied. I expect you’ll be doing a lot of ‘slow walkin’ and sad talkin’, if we hear anything at all from you!

honested

October 8th, 2012
5:22 pm

What’s next?
After the election will these loser sue to throw out the ballots of everyone who voted against the unConstitutional Amendment?

Why are the ‘voices’ of for-profit corporations seeking access to the pocket of the taxpayers somehow more valuable than the voices of those who will bear the brundt should this error become the latest embarrassment added to Georgia Law?

honested

October 8th, 2012
5:24 pm

cc

The Re-Election of the President is still inevitable.

The little burp in the polls just keeps you people from going crazy before November.

Shar

October 8th, 2012
5:26 pm

Does this mean that the endorsement language put onto the ballot preamble by Deal as well as the blatant misrepresentation of the amendment in the proposition language itself, all of which were paid for by taxpayers, can and must be deleted?

I’d go for that.

td

October 8th, 2012
5:28 pm

honested

October 8th, 2012
5:24 pm

cc

The Re-Election of the President is still inevitable.

The little burp in the polls just keeps you people from going crazy before November.

inevitable: You used the same word in 2010 about Barnes election. How did that work out for you?

honested

October 8th, 2012
5:33 pm

td,

You just hold your breath until November on this one.
It will do about as much good as all the wrong wing swagger that has been thrown about in the last week.
Romney is still a loser, with no plans, and probably eventual legal trouble over tax evasion.

cc

October 8th, 2012
5:38 pm

“The Re-Election of the President is still inevitable.”

You evidently live in the same make-believe world with Hussein. The first debate was just a harbinger of things to come. Hussein will not ‘win’ any of the debates. In 2008, Obama ran on “hope” and “change”, but in 2012 he must run FROM his record. There will be no friendly, biased reporters serving up fat soft pitches for him and no teleprompter telling him what words to mouth. He will constantly be confronted with facts that he cannot refute and certainly cannot satisfactorily explain or lie away. Unlike others, I did not think Obama ‘off his game’, but thought him to finally be shown for the shallow and undisciplined pretender that he has always been. Have you noticed how the news rats are already abandoning the Obama sinking ship? It only gets worse from this point on until the election – where he will be soundly defeated.

Yes, I said it and I stand behind what I said just as I did my 2010 predictions.

This, too, shall come to pass . . .

Addie Price

October 8th, 2012
5:45 pm

GaBlue – There are plenty of them – Are you serious???? Only 9 counties in Georgia have Independent Start Up Charter Schools, 150 counties do not have. Only 9 independent charter schools have been approved by local school boards across the state since 2009.

Lynn43

October 8th, 2012
5:49 pm

From a local party after the channel two report where pro amendment supporters and representatives of out-of-state for-profit charter school management companies were gathered, much “high 5ing” and bragging that they had the school boards “under their thumbs”. Now you tell me what this amendment is about. It is not about the education of Georgia’s children. It is about big money for these companies and Georgia politicians.

Lynn43

October 8th, 2012
5:55 pm

Three new charters and 3 renewal charters were approved by the State Board of Education just this week. If a charter school is better (which it isn’t), then it should not matter who approved it first. If a charter is up to par, it will be approved. If not, then I guess we need a state commission to approve “below par” charters.

GaBlue

October 8th, 2012
5:59 pm

Addie Price,

Clever how you snuck the word “independent” and “since 2009″ in there. There are nearly 50 listed on the GCSA member school directory alone, and a more extensive list on the DOE website, so there ARE quite a few in Georgia. You must have a stake in amending our constitution for no good reason, in order to offer such a twisted argument to my statements of fact.

DJ Sniper

October 8th, 2012
6:22 pm

CC, you’ve never heard me say that Obama’s re-election is inevitable. All I’ve ever said is that the final poll on 11/6 is the one I’m most concerned about. Also, can you and the rest of the cons please come to the realization that Obama is NOT the first president in history to use a teleprompter? It’s mind boggling that some people actually believe that nonsense. And GOP candidates are notorious for only talking to reporters that lob softball questions at them. Half of the party doesn’t have the guts to be interviewed by someone who will ask them questions that can’t be answered by neatly prepared talking point. Thanks to that nitwit Palin, “gotcha journalism” is now a term used to describe being forced to tell the truth.

Since you brought up the 2010 midterms, let me say this: Those elections were more about voters who didn’t show up than the ones who did. You talk about being being lied to about “hope and change”, but let’s not even begin to talk about the Tea Party nutjobs who ran on the promise of “jobs jobs job”, but haven’t done squat about that since taking office.

Lastly, I said already that these poll numbers will change again. When they do and Obama’s numbers bounce back up, I’m sure you and your cronies will be all up on here with every excuse in the book as to why that happened. And if Obama’s record is so terrible, then why does the GOP have to resort to attacking him using everything but his record?

DJ Sniper

October 8th, 2012
6:26 pm

Honested, I wouldn’t put it past these GOP idiots to try something like that.

cc

October 8th, 2012
6:35 pm

“Romney is still a loser, with no plans, and probably eventual legal trouble over tax evasion”

You can bet you’re a$$ if there was ANY potential ‘legal trouble over tax evasion’ for Romney, the leaders of your wacko leftist party would be screaming it to high heaven right now. There ISN’T and there WON’T be any problems, and I believe YOU already know it. If it’s any consolation to you, I’m sure your wacko party is proud of your lie, though! After all, lying is very much in vogue for you wackos.

Vinicius De Mello

October 8th, 2012
6:49 pm

Just a small comment, states with unionized teachers score higher than those state that don’t. Charter schools are the ones that the founders won’t send their own kin to, but they are ok for other peoples kids and I can make a nice juicy profit from the tax payer.

Elizabeth

October 8th, 2012
7:03 pm

Still all of you are ignoring the small differences … The opposition continues to TELL people how to vote the proponents of this amendment have never sent out one piece of item that was paid for by taxpayers that says vote yes , nor has any charter school used school time to lobby parents and tell them how to vote … I know all of you love to ignore the facts but ignoring this fact makes you miss everything

Lisa

October 8th, 2012
7:32 pm

We don’t need MORE government! We already can approve charters locally and the decision can be appealed at DOE. Also, follow the money on this one. All those out of state companies are not giving hundreds of thousands of dollars because they are worried about GA education.

Peter

October 8th, 2012
8:06 pm

Seriously? Those of you who think that the current “appeals” process to the state (if a charter petition is denied by the local district) is a fair deal, you are drinking way too much of this kool-aide. The state school sup, does not even favor this, so why would he endorse an appeal?
This amendment will give parents in failing school zones a choice for their kids without trying to move or lie about where they live. If any of you think this is not about “Choice”, check out how many parents have their children’s name on waiting lists trying to get away from their home school.
I will be voting YES!

cellophane

October 8th, 2012
8:58 pm

Addie– how many counties have had charter petitions submitted for consideration? Frame your “only nine counties” statistic correctly. My guess is a dozen counties have processed start-up petitions, maybe two dozen tops. As charter schools initially were an urban/inner city feature, Atlanta Public Schools received the most, followed by metro counties. Where did Charter Schools USA first submit petitions when they jumped in the Georgia market in 2008/2009? In the counties that had population to ensure required profitable enrollment– Atlanta City, Fulton County, Savannah-Chatham, Forsyth, Cobb, Cherokee…. they sure didn’t run to the 140 school districts with fewer than 10,000 students.

momoftwo

October 8th, 2012
11:54 pm

First, Charter Schools create competition for the other schools. Second, most of those charter schools are not true charter schools. Third, Charter Schools are nonprofit, run by parents, teacher’s. And community leaders. Fourth, if a charter school fails they close, when was the last time you have heard of a failed traditional public school closing. Fifth, charter schools do NOT take money away from traditional public schools. Those schools keep the local money to spend more money per child. So, sounds like they keep money on a child they aren’t required to teach. Sixth, the state hasn’t taken any money away from local schools. The schools are hurting because the local tax dollar is a lot less. We are paying less in property taxes, this is where the shortfall comes from. This is not the States fault. The money for charter schools comes from a general fund. The local school districts will never see this money without charter schools. So, the state is putting more money into the communities due to charter. Seventh, the charter board is a volunteer. Board so no larger government. Volunteer means free! Eighth, the courts ruled only the local BOEs can create schools so ANY charter school created by the state BOE is unconstitutional. And therefore. Will be disbanded if the amendment doesn’t pass. The groups procharter, parents, not teachers, school admin, nothing to do with tax payer money. This is why they are right and the other is wrong!

momoftwo

October 9th, 2012
12:01 am

But its not the parents of traditional public schools standing up. Its the people who are scared of losing any of the power they crave! Did you know that the superintendant of gwinette county makes more than Obama. He also gets 1500.00 a month for car allowance. Cherokee county’s super Dr P. The county pays him 600.00 a month for his car allowance. The tax payers also pay his wife’s car allowance, a driver for him and his and her health, life insurance etc. 100%. Hum, education empire.