Consortium files lawsuit for adequate school funding
For Immediate Release: Sept. 14, 2004
Contact: Joe Martin, 404-872-9651, www.casfg.org
ATLANTA - The Consortium for Adequate School Funding in Georgia filed a lawsuit against the State of Georgia in Fulton County Superior Court today to seek additional funding for Georgia’s schools. This 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.
The Consortium is a coalition of 51 local school systems, which was formed in 2001, in response to the financial crisis facing Georgia’s schools. The Consortium is joined in the lawsuit by five individual school systems, which are examples of the financial crisis facing Georgia’s schools, along with parents of students in these systems.
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. The lawsuit explains the problems in the method of financing used by the State and describes the harmful consequences for Georgia’s children, including the tragic reality that four out of every ten students in Georgia are not graduating from high school.
"The purpose of the lawsuit is to ask the courts of Georgia to resolve a constitutional issue," said Joe Martin, Executive Director of the Consortium. "The under-funding of Georgia’s schools has become so severe - and the prospects for a legislative solution are so remote - that the Consortium has no choice but to take this action."
The goal of the lawsuit is to ensure an adequate education for every student. The intent is not to help the members of the Consortium at the expense of other systems. If the State provides additional funding for the basic instructional program through the existing formula, all students and systems would benefit, according to Martin.
Dr. William A. Hunter, Superintendent of the Brantley County Schools and President of the Consortium, stressed the importance of the lawsuit. "The level of State funding has dropped below the minimum amount needed to provide an adequate education for every child in Georgia," he said. "Despite the best efforts of our teachers, the lack of resources prevents our schools from meeting the needs of all students, especially those who are disadvantaged."
The Consortium is asking the State to proceed with the plan previously announced by Governor Sonny Perdue to conduct an objective study on the cost of an adequate education, with this study being performed by an independent firm with expertise in school finance. Dr. Hunter explained that this study will be very helpful in any event, because it is likely that the courts will leave the task of designing a specific remedy to the General Assembly.
Mr. Martin noted that the State has shifted much of the cost of the basic program to local school systems. This problem affects all systems in Georgia, but is especially harmful to those systems that do not have a large amount of commercial property. Nevertheless, the Consortium is seeking a solution that would benefit all students and systems.
Dr. Hunter summarized the challenge as follows. "This lawsuit is about the future of Georgia. We cannot achieve our aspirations as a state if we continue to deprive our schools of the resources they need to provide an adequate education for all of our students."
He added, "The members of the Consortium are standing up for our children. We applaud the Governor for his leadership in addressing this issue, and we will work closely with the General Assembly. At the same time, the Consortium is calling on the State to fulfill its clear obligation under Georgia’s constitution to all of our children."
Despite the filing of the initial complaint in this lawsuit, Dr. Hunter emphasized the willingness of the Consortium to cooperate with the State in developing both short-term and long-term plans and to allow enough time for the necessary steps in this process.
A wave of similar litigation has occurred across the country, with most of these cases leading to increased financial support for education. (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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A list of the members of the Consortium