ATLANTA — Georgia School Superintendent John Barge and local school officials in Atlanta and Fulton County have illegally used taxpayer money to lobby against a proposed constitutional amendment that could allow more charter schools, according to a complaint filed by an attorney.
Glenn Delk has asked the state Board of Education to hold an emergency meeting on his allegations. He wants the board to decide if state funds should be withheld from local school boards that he contends have violated state law. The board has forwarded Delk’s letter to state Attorney General Sam Olens for guidance.
Barge declined to comment on the complaint.
“Because this is a potential litigation issue, it would be unwise for us to comment on it at the moment,” Barge spokesman Matt Cardoza told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Fulton County Superintendent Robert Avossa and Atlanta Superintendent Erroll Davis denied breaking state law.
“I view this as a sophomoric attempt at intimidation,” Davis said.
Georgia’s Supreme Court earlier struck down a law that allowed state officials to approve publicly financed, but privately operated schools. State lawmakers responded by passing a proposed amendment that would give state officials the power to create charter schools even in cases where local school boards object.
To become effective, that change would have to be approved by voters in November’s election.
Barge came out against the amendment in August, saying it threatens local control and state financial support for traditional schools. Gov. Nathan Deal and other Republicans have publicly backed the amendment.
Barge has said he would not campaign against the amendment or raise money for opponents. But he did write a 29-point position paper that is posted on the state Department of Education’s website. Portions of that paper appeared in a question-and-answer that the Fulton County School District gave to voters.
Delk described the document as a “thinly disguised propaganda piece against the amendment.”