School Funding Cases in Georgia

in Georgia, Georgia Litigation

Historical Background

More than two decades ago, a Georgia trial court had found the state’s system of financing public education unconstitutional, but the state supreme court upheld the system in McDaniel v. Thomas, 285 S.E. 2d 156 (Ga. 1981). The trial court found that “The inequalities in the school finance system deny students in property poor districts equal educational opportunities.” The supreme court agreed that the trial court’s factual findings were “unassailable.” However, it ruled in this “equity” suit on the equal protection claim that the system “does bear some rational relationship to legitimate state purposes and is therefore not violative of state equal protection.”

Recent Events

In September of 2004, the Consortium for Adequate School Funding in Georgia (CASFG), a coalition of 51 of Georgia’s 180 school districts, filed an “adequacy” lawsuit, claiming that the state’s school funding system violates the education provision of the state constitution. The trial court denied the state’s motion to dismiss, and the Georgia Supreme Court refused to hear the state’s appeal.

A pre-trial hearing was held in the case in 2006. As an Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial reported, attorneys for the state argued that the responsibility for educating children and the responsibility for funding that education lies with local school boards, and that the state cannot be held responsible for what they described as local governments’ refusal to increase local taxes.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that relying on local taxes for education funding is unfair and inequitable, and that the Georgia Constitution holds the state responsible for providing its residents with an adequate education.

Although courts in school funding adequacy cases routinely determine the constitutional definition of an adequate education, attorneys for the state also told the court that, even if the state is responsible for providing an adequate education, trying to define it would lead the court into a quagmire, the Journal-Constitution editorial reported.

The Consortium for Adequate School Funding issued recommendations for a settlement with the state on October 10, 2006, according to the Athens Banner-Herald. The governor’s office, however, cautioned that a settlement is “not imminent.”

On September 16, 2008, The Consortium for Adequate School Funding withdraw its lawsuit in the Fulton County Superior Court, stating that it will take other actions, including the filing of a new lawsuit in another court in Georgia. The withdrawal came soon after it was announced that the case was being transferred from Judge Elizabeth Long to Judge Craig L. Schwall.

Last Updated: September 2008

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