State moves to fight lawsuit for adequate school funding
For Immediate Release: June 13, 2006
Contact: Joe Martin, 404-872-9651
ATLANTA - The Consortium for Adequate School Funding in Georgia announced today that the State of Georgia has rebuffed its offer to negotiate a settlement of the lawsuit for adequate school funding and has hired a major Atlanta law firm to oppose the Consortium’s efforts to improve the opportunities for Georgia’s children.
The Consortium filed a lawsuit against the State of Georgia in September of 2004 to enforce the State’s obligation under the Georgia Constitution to provide an adequate education for all of its children. The State attempted to have the lawsuit dismissed, but the Georgia Supreme Court ruled in December of 2005 that the case can go forward.
Early this year, the Consortium made overtures to key State officials about a possible settlement as a way to avoid a costly trial and accelerate the benefits to Georgia’s children. At the State’s request, the Consortium then submitted a formal proposal to the Attorney General.
However, more than three months passed until the State replied in a letter last week that it has no interest in discussions with the Consortium about ways to solve the problems in the financing of Georgia’s schools. Instead, the State asked the Consortium to rely on the Governor's Education Finance Task Force.
The State has also hired the nationally prominent firm of Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan as its lead counsel in fighting the lawsuit. This is the same firm that charged the State of New York over $11 million in legal fees in a similar case.
The Consortium is a coalition of 51 local school systems, which was formed in 2001 to address the crisis facing Georgia’s schools. Beside the Consortium, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit include 5 individual systems, which serve as examples of the issues being raised, along with 31 of their parents and students.
The parties bringing the lawsuit contend the State has chronically under-funded its schools. As a direct result, many students in Georgia are not receiving an adequate education. Some of the basic facts are outlined in the attached summary.
Al Hunter, president of the Consortium and superintendent of the McIntosh County Schools, said, “The members of the Consortium are standing up for our children. We are calling on the State to fulfill its moral and legal obligation to every student in Georgia.”
“This turn of events is very disappointing to those who want to improve our schools,” said Joe Martin, executive director of the Consortium. “Instead of trying to work out a solution, the State has turned a deaf ear to the needs of Georgia’s children and declared war by hiring a high-powered law firm.”
Jeff Welch, treasurer of the Consortium and superintendent of the Oglethorpe County Schools, affirmed the resolve of the Consortium. “We are being put to the test,” he said, “but we will not falter in doing what is right for our children. This lawsuit is about the future of Georgia.”
Dr. Hunter added, “The level of state funding has dropped below the minimum amount needed to provide an adequate education for every student in Georgia. As the State shifts its responsibility to the local level, the consequences are especially harmful to those systems that do not have a large amount of taxable property, but we are seeking a solution that will benefit all systems and all students throughout Georgia.”
The Consortium has called a special meeting in Cordele on Friday, June 16, to consider its next steps, followed by a briefing for the press on how the Consortium will respond to this challenge. The briefing will be held at noon at the Crisp County High School. There will also be an informational meeting at the Summer Conference of the Georgia School Boards Association, to which representatives of other systems are being invited.
A wave of similar litigation has occurred across the country, with most of these cases leading to increased financial support for education and improved outcomes for the students. (Reports on the current status of these cases can be found at www.schoolfunding.info.)
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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Attachment: Fact sheet