Ga. Attorney General: School Boards and Charter Schools Can’t Fight Amendments With Taxpayer Funds

The Georgia Attorney General’s office says local school boards and charter schools can’t expend funds or other resources to advocate for or against a constitutional amendment.

The opinion was sent to State School Superintendent John Barge. Attorney General Sam Olens says state law prohibits local government entities, including county school boards and charter schools from expending local funds or resources on electoral advocacy. The opinion came after Atlanta attorney Glenn Delk sent a letter accusing Superintendent Barge, several superintendents and local school boards of using taxpayer time and money to lobby against the proposed charter school amendment. Delk says the letter confirms his charges.

“I don’t think Attorney General Olens could have been any clearer. I couldn’t have written this opinion any better myself.  If you look at our complaint letters, these are exactly the same arguments we made.”

Delk says he’s hopeful a lawsuit won’t be necessary. But he says school boards and local superintendents advocating against the amendment need to a number of things to comply, including taking opposition information off their websites and revoking resolutions against the amendment.

Meanwhile, Angela Palm with the Georgia School Boards Association says she wants more clarification from the Attorney General and is concerned the opinion could be in violation of the first amendment.

“If the intent of the letter is to say, no, you can’t talk about this in any way, then I think that’s a definite problem. If the intent is of the letter is to reinforce existing statute that says you can’t use public resources, okay we knew that, but thank you for the reminder, and it doesn’t change anything.”

A spokesman for the Georgia Department of Education says the department plans to forward the opinion to local school districts.

Link: PDF copy of the letter Attorney General Sam Olens sent to State School Superintendent John Barge.