COVINGTON -- The state Attorney General's office has given input to the state Department of Education regarding official opinions about the upcoming charter school vote.
Earlier this week, Attorney General Sam Olens sent state Superintendent of Schools John Barge a letter regarding use of public resources regarding the vote -- it's not allowed.
In August, state Superintendent of Schools John Barge issued a statement in opposition to the amendment, saying the measure takes away local control and could give taxpayer dollars to out-of state, for-profit charter schools.
Both the Newton and Rockdale county public school systems passed resolutions in September stating their opposition to the measure, which would give the state Legislature the right to allow for charter schools that are not approved by local school boards.
In Newton, school board Vice Chair Jeff Meadors opposed the resolution, saying he didn't want to tell voters how to vote; and in Rockdale, the vote was unanimous, save for members Wales Barksdale and Katrina Young being absent from the meeting.
After the boards passed the resolutions, each school system posted a link to the resolutions on their websites. Additionally, each board had said they planned to send a copy of the one-page resolutions to Gov. Nathan Deal.
School boards across the state have passed similar resolutions.
NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews, at the request of school board Chair Eddie Johnson, also emailed a request that members of local media publish the resolution that he attached to the email.
In Olens' letter to Barge this week, he said that local boards don't have the authority to expend funds or resources to advocate or oppose a constitutional amendment.
"They may not do this directly or indirectly through associations to which they may belong," he wrote. "Counties may not use their resources to persuade voters to support or oppose a ballot question."
Previously, the Georgia Supreme Court had settled the question in Harrison v. Rainey, Olens explained. In the case, county commissioners mailed brochures at the county's expense urging voters to approve a referendum, and county employees promoted the referendum.
Similar cases also have come to the court, which ruled and established that local governments can't expend resources in support of or opposition to a referendum, Olens said.
Before receiving the letter, the state DOE had posted a message from Barge on its website concerning his opposition to the vote. It was later removed, and on Tuesday, the department scrolled an alert across its webpage stating that it "takes no position" on the vote.
Additionally, Gov. Nathan Deal's office edited a previous statement on the governor's official website this week, removing a statement in which he urged Georgians to approve the change.
The DOE said it forwarded Olens' letter to each Georgia superintendent, but it will not give any direction to local boards, as they each have a local school board attorney to consult.
As of Friday, NCSS kept its board resolution posted on its website. RCPS had removed the message as of Friday, although in September, its school board attorney Jack Lance said passing the resolution was legal, since the superintendent and his officers are not allowed to persuade voters on topics, but the school board is allowed to pass resolutions requesting a certain vote, as long as it does not use any extreme resources.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.