Read, Chapman think Barge firm on charter issue
by Megan Thornton
mthornton@cherokeetribune.com
October 04, 2012 12:00 AM | 2426 views | 2 2 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — The Cherokee County school board chairman and vice chairwoman said they still believe State Superintendent Dr. John Barge is sticking to his opposition of the charter amendment, but local charter supporters remain mum following the Georgia Department of Education’s declaration of neutrality on the Nov. 6 vote.

Also on Wednesday, state Attorney General Sam Olens sent a letter addressed to Barge confirming that local school boards and charter schools cannot legally spend funds or other resources to advocate or oppose the ratification of a constitutional amendment by voters.

Olens said in his opinion to Barge that boards could not advocate or oppose either directly or indirectly, including through associations to which they may belong.

In the letter, Olens noted he would send Barge another letter as to whether the state would be required to take any enforcement action against school boards that may have violated this law.

Even prior to release of Wednesday’s letter from the attorney general, local school board officials said they understood Barge’s need to ease off.

Cherokee Board of Education Chairman Mike Chapman said he understood Barge felt he needed to take the language down because of pending litigation.

“I don’t think that changes his position at all,” Chapman said “It’s been dirty pool all the way along in all these things. I’m just not surprised he was forced to do that.”

Vice Chairwoman Janet Read agreed with Chapman’s evaluation of the situation.

“(Barge) has made it very clear what his stance is,” Read said. “He has remained very vocal and firm, which I appreciate.”

Read thought it was a good decision for Barge to “err on the side of caution” and the move would likely make even more voters aware of the upcoming vote.

“I think what (the GaDOE is) trying to get out there is that people need to be educated on what this amendment truly means,” rather than simply taking the side of the state schools chief, Read said.

Lyn Carden, chairwoman for the Georgia Charter Educational Foundation and member of Cherokee Charter Academy’s Local Governing Council, said she does not have a comment on the matter, as Barge’s decision did not involve CCA.

“…We are just citizens and parents watching things happen at the capitol and hoping the best interest of Georgia’s children prevail,” Carden said.

Other Cherokee Charter local governing council members did not return requests for comment.

The amendment would allow a new state board to select private organizations to run taxpayer-financed charter schools. The power now rests with local school boards.

All day Tuesday, the department of education scrolled an alert across its Web page stating that it “takes no position” on the vote.

The message did not mention Barge.

The online alert is the second retreat in as many weeks following a complaint lodged by an Atlanta attorney on behalf of unidentified clients. Earlier, Barge retracted online documents explaining his opposition to the amendment.

Gov. Nathan Deal’s office, meanwhile, quietly edited a March 19 statement on the governor’s official website, removing a statement in which he urged Georgians to approve the change.

Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said the action was voluntary.

The statement, issued when the General Assembly approved the amendment, previously concluded with this line: “I hope Georgians will cast their vote for protecting and promoting schools that have a strong record of student achievement.”

It now concludes with a new sentence: “There’s a great need in our state for protecting and promoting schools that have a strong record of student achievement.”

As of Tuesday evening, the statement was still dated March 19, with no reference to the editing more than six months after its initial release.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Comments
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ByeByeChapman
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October 04, 2012
It's telling that Chapman sees no problem with Barge using taxpayer $$ to advance his liberal, Democratic anti-charter agenda.

I.E. It's telling that Chapman sees no problem with BREAKING THE LAW, as long as the ends fit his charter-school-hating agenda.

He's matched by our superintendent and several board members as well, all of whom think it's A-OK to use OUR tax $$$ illegally to promote THEIR specific political agendas. How stupid do they think the Cherokee County taxpayer is? We don't need a bunch of liberal democrats telling us how to vote, nor using our tax $$$ to promote their failed agendas. There's a reason such activity is criminal, as Barge found out.

Thank God Chapman is departing soon. Hopefully he'll take his own advice and leave the county for good.

J Rasmussen
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October 04, 2012
I don't see how supporting local control of public education is a "failed policy." Especially in a county that has some of the best schools in the state. How many taxpayer $$$ did the Superintendent spend to post his opinion on the state website?
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