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Attorney General: Local boards can't use resources to persuade voters

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.

Comments

tomgahunter 2 years, 2 months ago

I see in the Covington News where the school board other than Mr Medows thinks being in the bottom half of the State of Georgia is OK. Just remember that Georgia ranks between 45 and 49 nationally in education. They think that the problem is "misinformation" not the lack of results.

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Calisweetheart 2 years, 2 months ago

LaQuanda Carpenter has outdone herself. Failed school and desperate attorney. A storm.

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Chris 2 years, 2 months ago

Thank goodness the voters are protected from elected officials expressing an opinion about public policy.

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gsm7476 2 years, 2 months ago

"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." Looks like to me Meadors was the onlt BOE member who got it right. Eddie its going going foul ball. Isnt athe web site and county email acount resources. May the paper should look in to that.

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amp72 2 years, 2 months ago

Eddie Johnson must go. Plain and simple.

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KBeet 2 years, 2 months ago

@Gsm has Gary turned his homework in yet? Probably not. Well your right Meadors was the only one to get it right thats why they are all hurt about it. Plus they don't want the truth out there oh no. They want all out lies to make this county look appealing to other people. Ask Hunter Know it all Hall he will tell you. Ha. Tell the people what they want to hear to hear not the truth.

Well as I see it the quicker Johnson and Turner are gone the better. I can add Mathews to that list of destruction as well.

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TheUpside 2 years, 2 months ago

I find it pretty obvious what is going on. Meadors is right about the charter vote - see the AG's report. Now the school system has taken the resolution off the page but I bet the "other paper" won't report that Meadors right. Hunter Hall says "your data is all true - it is all true" - but Hall just does not like it. Maybe he liked the bullcrap smear campaign his boys did at the News Sunday I am sure that helped his beloved Baxter. I hope they are sued into the next century. Meadors columns are accurate, true, honest, blunt. Right about the charter vote so what else is he right about that has them all freaking the heck out? Insiders know the answer and you will too pretty soon. WHen an attorney is so desperate she talks openly about her own case she filed it is pretty desperate.

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