Georgia Supreme Court allows lawsuit to proceed
For Immediate Release: January 5, 2006
Contact: Joe Martin, 404-872-9651, www.casfg.org
ATLANTA - In a statement issued today, the Consortium for Adequate School Funding in Georgia underscored the significance of the decision by the Georgia Supreme Court in rejecting the motion by the State of Georgia to dismiss the lawsuit brought by the Consortium and others on the State’s responsibility in the financing of Georgia’s schools.
Through a one-sentence order dated December 28, 2005, the Georgia Supreme Court let stand the ruling by Judge Elizabeth E. Long on October 28, 2005, in which she denied the State’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The State had appealed Judge Long’s ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court, but only one of the justices voted to hear the appeal. As a result of this order, the case will now proceed to a trial on the facts.
Joseph G. Martin, Jr., executive director of the Consortium, characterized this order as a major boost to the lawsuit, because the Consortium thought that it would have to argue a number of legal and procedural issues before the courts would even allow a trial to be held. He said, “This is another victory for our children. The Georgia Supreme Court had the opportunity to delay the process, but did not do so. The clear implication is that the State of Georgia has a constitutional obligation which can be tested in a court of law.”
According to Martin, “the Attorney General pulled out all the stops in trying to get our lawsuit dismissed as a matter that is not subject to judicial review. Our position is now much stronger legally, and the potential schedule has been shortened considerably.”
The State had argued that the financing of education in Georgia is solely a local responsibility and that the courts have no right to determine whether the State is fulfilling its duties under the Georgia Constitution. The Consortium contended that the State of Georgia has a constitutional obligation to prove an adequate education for all of our children, regardless of where they live or what their background might be.
Dr. William A. Hunter, president of the Consortium, reiterated the willingness of the Consortium to cooperate with the State in seeking ways to achieve this goal. “Before beginning a contentious and expensive trial, we would prefer to reach a settlement that ensures the provision of an adequate education for every child in Georgia,” he said.
Dr. Jeffrey C. Welch, treasurer of the Consortium, added, “ The State will now have to show that it is providing enough support to our schools to enable every student to gain the opportunities they need and deserve.”
The Consortium, a coalition of 51 local school systems, along with 5 of its member systems and 33 students and 17 parents in these systems, filed a lawsuit against the State of Georgia on September 14, 2004. The complaint cited extensive evidence for their contention that the State is failing to provide an adequate education for every student in Georgia, as required by Paragraph 1 in Section 1 of Article VIII of the Georgia Constitution.
Martin explained that the plaintiffs are not asking the courts to tell the State how much it should spend on education, but only to decide whether the State is providing an adequate education for every student in Georgia. If ordered to do so, the Georgia General Assembly will have to determine the steps that are needed to meet the State’s constitutional obligation.
There is a wave of similar litigation across the nation. According to data complied by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, 20 of the last 26 adequacy cases have been decided in favor of the plaintiffs. In a lengthy decision on December 29, 2005, the trial court in South Carolina ruled that the obligation of that state, which is only to provide the “opportunity for … a minimally adequate education,” still requires the state to respond to the need of all of its students.
For further information, contact Joe Martin at 404-872-9651 or visit the Consortium's website at www.casfg.org.
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