School systems sue state -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

School systems sue state

July 23, 2004

Fitzgerald- Most school systems receive about 80% of their money from the state, but those in rural areas of Georgia say they aren't getting their fair share, and now they want the courts to help.

Ben Hill Superintendent Dr. John Key looks at pictures of some of the maintenance and repair work that needs to be done at Fitzgerald High School.

"The longer you put it off the worse things will get."

Key says rural school systems like Ben Hill aren't getting the same amount of state money that schools in metro and wealthy counties are receiving and it's taking a toll.

"We have cut personnel, we've cut administration, we've cut maintenance and operation.I'm not going to say that our students have done without, but it's getting to that point where they may."

He says it's also putting a strain on homeowners who must endure property tax increases when the school board needs additional money.

"It goes back to what one mill generates. For example, one mill generates over 200,000 here, but in some of the other counties that are surrounding us maybe 70,000 or 80,000. But, in some of the northern counties 700,000."

Ben Hill County is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the state filed by the Georgia Consortium for Adequate School Funding, a group that includes 52 other school systems.

Key says years of lobbying and pleading with state officials just hasn't worked and now he's hoping the legal system will help give rural school systems the equality they say is long overdue.

He also says he's confident the evidence supports the systems' claims, but he knows it could be a lengthy battle. Similar lawsuits have been filed by school systems in Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas.

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