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School board members vote to continue lawsuit

The McDuffie County Board of Education recently voted to continue supporting a lawsuit against the state. In a 5-2 vote, the board voted to fund the annual membership they've had since 2002 in what is now called the Georgia School Funding Association.

The association was called the Consortium for Adequate School Funding until April of this year, when the name was changed, the corporate structure was amended and a new lawsuit was prepared.

McDuffie County joined the CFASF under the leadership of Superintendent Ed Grisham. The association is a non-partisan coalition of school systems, individuals and organizations actively filing a lawsuit with the intent of getting the State to accept its constitutional responsibility in education regardless of economic conditions. The goal is to create an objective process and structure for supporting all schools that will be viable over time. It will not be necessary to increase taxes, but the wave of tax exemptions cannot be continued.

Although they've been party to the lawsuit all along, this year's budget crunch caused the board to rethink their involvement. The system pays one dollar per Full Time Enrolled student to participate. The lawsuit is designed to help all school systems, regardless of their involvement - something board member Greg Derry questioned before the vote last Thursday. Mr. Derry asked if McDuffie County would benefit anyway, why did they need to put in the $4,000?

"It's true that we would benefit, but the more systems that are involved, the more likely the state will be to listen," Assistant Superintendent Jim Franklin responded during the discussion, in the absence of Superintendent Mark Petersen.

Since becoming involved in 2002, McDuffie County has paid more than $106,000 towards the project. But at the time of the restructuring in April, the fees went down to the per FTE fee. McDuffie County currently has approximately 4,100 full time enrolled students.

Board member Bob Smith said he understood that the lawsuit is to make sure that small systems, such as McDuffie County, receives the same funding as large systems, such as Fulton County.

"Can I add 'reluctantly' to my approval?" Mr. Smith said with a sigh as he raised his hand in favor of the vote.

Mr. Smith, Mr. Derry, Rev. Ella Mae Samuels, Dexter Lovins and Rev. Dorothy Hart voted in favor of continuing membership with the lawsuit and Chairwoman Georgia Hobbs and Vice Chairman Rick McCorkle voted against it.

Web posted on Thursday, June 25, 2009

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