Georgia attorney general Thurbert Baker’s opinion that a consortium of schools can’t use taxpayer dollars to fund a lawsuit against the state came as news to at least one school leader.
“I have read the opinion, and all I can say at this point is that I am surprised,” Madison County Schools superintendent Mitch McGhee said in an email.
Madison County is one of the 50 school districts in the consortium.
It was especially surprising since earlier opinions issued, according to McGhee, have cleared the consortium legally.
“This is not consistent with opinions regarding the consortiums ‘legal right to exist’ that have been issued in the past,” he said.
Baker issued his legal opinion Monday, and the governor’s office released it statewiade Tuesday.
According to the press release, Baker opined that boards of education “are not empowered to share services by creating and utilizing a nonprofit corporation such as the Consortium for Adequate School Funding in Georgia, Inc.,” to seek legal action against the state.
The consortium responded the same day, saying the lawsuit will continue despite this 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,” Joseph G. Martin, Jr., executive director of the consortium, said in a press release. “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.”
Martin went on to call Baker’s opinion “strained to say the least,” and questioned whether Baker could issue an opinion regarding a case in which the state is the defendant.
Gov. Sonny Perdue, who asked for the opinion in September, appeared to take Baker’s statement as welcomed news.
“This ruling makes it clear that local school systems should focus on their legal responsibility of educating children instead of wasting taxpayer funds to pay lawyers suing the state,” Perdue said in the press release. “Too much time, money and effort have been spent on this case already, but now we can put this distraction behind us and continue to focus on improving student achievement.”
The consortium started in 2004, seeking litigation against the state for allegedly failing to fund schools adequately.
The consortium dropped its lawsuit in September as a strategic move when Perdue replaced the judge presiding over the case. It is looking to re-file the case.
McGhee said back in November that Madison County pays roughly $4,700 a year in dues to the consortium.
Stay in the fight and don't give up. This "decision" only shows that Perdue and his do-boy attorney general know they will lose in court so they have to try to intimidate us into backing down. The fight is almost won...stay in there. $4,700 is a pittance compared to what we will gain when we win.