Opponents of charter schools amendment raise their own questions about tactics of supporters

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Opponents of charter schools amendment raise their own questions about tactics of supporters

Saying what’s good for the goose is good for the governor, the Democratic Party of Georgia has accused Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens of overlooking what it sees as Gov. Nathan Deal’s illegal use of taxpayer resources to support the charter schools amendment.

In a letter dated Oct. 4, the party criticized an opinion Olens wrote last week, when he reminded Georgia Schools Superintendent John Barge and local school boards of the state’s prohibition against using taxpayer resources to participate in a political campaign.

Democrats, many of whom oppose the charter schools amendment, have long argued that Republicans who support it have done precisely what Olens warned Barge and the local boards not to do. Olens’ letter did not address actions by the governor or other amendment supporters.

The Democrats’ letter cites several instances of Deal using his official website to urge voters to support the amendment, which, if approved by voters in November, would guarantee the state’s ability to authorize charter schools and establish a commission to consider applications for them.

Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said voters expect the governor to speak out on matters of public importance and no taxpayer resources were used.

The Democrats’ letter adds another political twist to the debate, in which amendment supporters and opponents are arguing over what their opponents can and can’t do.

Accusations — and now lawsuits — are flying.

Several Gwinnett County residents filed suit Monday against the Georgia School Boards Association and Gwinnett schools, alleging that GSBA and the district used taxpayer resources to campaign against the amendment.

GSBA officials and Gwinnett Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks have said they have done nothing wrong.

Wilbanks said the lawsuits are an attempt to “bully, intimidate and silence” opponents of the amendment.

A hearing in that suit is scheduled for October 24.

Gwinnett’s school district is also a defendant in the suit filed by Atlanta attorney Glenn Delk, whose clients allege that school districts throughout Georgia have used taxpayer resources to campaign against the amendment. His suit is scheduled to be heard in Fulton County Superior Court today.

Several school board members have said they have a responsibility to inform voters about an amendment they argue would lead to more charter schools and less money for traditional public schools.

They and other amendment opponents say the argument over tactics is an effort to avoid debate about the amendment itself.

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