Consortium reacts to Attorney General’s Opinion
For Immediate Release: February 4, 2009
Contact: Joe Martin, 404-872-9651, www.casfg.org
ATLANTA - The Consortium for Adequate School Funding in Georgia reacted today with disbelief to an opinion issued by Georgia’s Attorney General about the authority of local boards of education to create a nonprofit corporation for the purpose of suing the State. The leaders of the Consortium were quick to say, however, that a lawsuit on the State’s constitutional obligation in education can still go forward regardless of this questionable opinion.
“The State has been doing everything it can to avoid a careful examination of whether the State has met its obligation under the Georgia Constitution to the students of Georgia,” said Joseph G. Martin, Jr., Executive Director of the Consortium. “The State has used technicalities and legal maneuvers at every turn to prevent this question from being answered in a court of law, which is the appropriate means of resolving such issues under our form of government.”
Mr. Martin continued, “This particular opinion is strained to say the least. How does our group differ from all of the other associations that are supported by local boards of education for the purpose of improving education in Georgia? And if individual school systems can sue the State over a constitutional issue, as they clearly can, there is no reason why they can’t form an organization for this purpose instead of having every system sue individually. The right of an association to act on behalf of its members has existed under Georgia law for many years.”
Dr. Jeffery C. Welch, President of the Consortium, stressed the importance of this issue. He said, “This lawsuit is intended to ensure that the students of Georgia obtain the opportunities they have been promised by our constitution. Why have the leaders of our state been so reluctant to let this issue be addressed? Our state cannot prosper if we continue to deprive our schools of the resources they must have to prepare all of our children for the modern world.”
Mr. Martin added, “If the nature of the Consortium was ever a problem, one has to wonder why this issue was never raised during more than four years of litigation so that it could be decided by an independent judge. There is also a clear question as to whether the Attorney General can issue an opinion that affects a case in which the State is a defendant.”
Along with students, parents, and individual systems, the Consortium filed a lawsuit in September, 2004, but the judge in this case was murdered in March of 2005. After a new judge was appointed, the State filed a motion to dismiss and later a motion for summary judgment, but both of these motions were denied after extensive written and oral arguments. The trial was scheduled to begin on October 21, 2008, but the second judge in this case was removed just before the start of the trial because of State cuts in funding for senior judges. After the case was transferred to a third judge whose views are well-known, the plaintiffs chose to withdraw their initial lawsuit without prejudice with the intent of filing a new complaint later.
The Consortium has completed the preparation of a new complaint, which is nearly 100 pages long according to Mr. Martin. The new complaint focuses on the State’s abdication of its responsibility to all of our students. The various problems affecting all of the schools in Georgia are described in detail. The requested remedy is to require the State to determine the cost of an adequate education in an objective way and then fulfill its duty. Most of the research has been completed, as evidenced by nearly 50 depositions and over 500,000 pages of documents.
According to Mr. Martin, the State apparently realizes that its best strategy is to dissuade local school systems from supporting the Consortium. “This appears to be the reason why the Governor requested an opinion from the Attorney General on this matter,” he said. “Even though we don’t agree with this opinion, there are still a number of alternatives we can pursue in continuing this cause on behalf of Georgia’s children.”
Despite the current recession, the goal of this lawsuit, according to Dr. Welch, is to ensure the support our schools must have over time. Unless the current course of events is altered, Georgia’s schools will remain in jeopardy even when the economy improves.
The Consortium is a coalition of 50 local school systems, which was formed in 2001 in response to the financial crisis facing Georgia’s schools. The Consortium is strictly non-partisan and is working for the benefit of every student in Georgia. The lawsuit is based on the State’s obligation under the Georgia Constitution (Article VIII, Section 1) to provide an adequate education for all of its children.
For further information regarding the Consortium or the lawsuit, contact Joe Martin at 404-872-9651 or visit the Consortium's website at www.casfg.org.
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