Amendment opponents criticize email sent by Georgia Charter Schools Association

Some supporters of the charter schools amendment have been vocal in opposingwhat they describe as traditional public school officials’ illegal use of taxpayer resources to campaign against the amendment. They’ve written to the attorney general and state Board of Education and filed suit in Fulton and Gwinnett counties.

On Friday, opponents of the amendment struck back, criticizing an email Nina Rubin, communications director of the Georgia Charter Schools Association, sent to charter school leaders across the state.

In the email sent Thursday, Rubin asked charter school leaders to “distribute this email to your teaching and support staff today.”

“We are working under a very tight deadline to put together an ad that will run in local media with the names of Educators, School Leaders & Teachers who support public charter schools,” Rubin wrote. “If you support Amendment One, and would like your name included, please send me the following information today or by noon tomorrow.”

Rubin then asks for the names and email addresses of charter school officials who support the amendment, which will be listed on ballots as Amendment One.

Charter schools are public schools. Like their counterparts in traditional public schools, charter school teachers and principals are not allowed to use taxpayer resources to participate in a political campaign.

“One can only hope they are doing this at night on their own time,” said Jane Langley, campaign director of votesmartgeorgia.com, which opposes the amendment.

Rubin said the email she sent was “poorly worded,” not approved by the association’s legal counsel and not intended for use in an ad.

“We were not asking teachers to participate in a political campaign,” Rubin wrote in an email to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We were trying to judge what kind of support charter school teachers have for the issue in various parts of the state.”

Rubin said the email has generated 200 responses. One charter school teacher told AJC blogger Maureen Downey that she received Rubin’s email from her principal during school hours. The teacher said the “hypocrisy” was too much for her to bear.

“That says it all,” Langley said.

If voters approve the amendment next month, it would cement the state’s power to authorize charter schools, and establish an appointed commission as a third body that could approve charter school applications.

Supporters believe charter schools – public schools that are granted flexibility as they pursue specific education goals laid out in their charter – give parents an alternative to struggling traditional public schools.

Amendment opponents argue it is unnecessary because local school boards and the state Board of Education already consider charter school applications. They also argue that passage of the amendment would lead to approval of more charter schools, which would deprive already cash-strapped traditional public schools of funding.

With three week to go before Georgia voters go the polls, the campaigns for and against the amendment are in high gear.

Amendment supporters have sent out fliers and made telephone calls urging its passage. A pro-amendment radio ad has begun airing on a local R&B station. Opponents have held town hall-style meetings where they have urged voters to reject the amendment.

And the argument over who can say what about the amendment goes on.

A Fulton County Superior Court judge turned down out a request for an injunction against Fulton County Schools, which had been accused of using taxpayer resources to campaign against the amendment.

On Wednesday, a group making the same allegation against Gwinnett County Public Schools will go before a judge seeking an injunction there.