Districts withdraw school funding lawsuit

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ATLANTA -- The long-running lawsuit accusing state officials of skimping on education spending took another twist Tuesday, as the more than 50 school districts behind the case decided to withdraw the suit and start over.

The decision was prompted by the loss of Fulton County Senior Judge Elizabeth Long, removed from the case as part of a state cost-cutting strategy to stop using semi-retired judges in the face of a looming budget crisis.

That and the assignment of the case to a judge who once served as the chairman of the Fulton County Republican Party caused officials with the Consortium on Adequate School Funding in Georgia to withdraw the case, saying they weren’t confident Judge Craig Schwall would give them a fair hearing.

“To continue along a course that is unlikely to succeed wouldn’t be good for the case,” said Joe Martin, executive director of the consortium.

Schwall is known for being outspoken; he wrote a harsh letter blasting the first judge in the case of accused Fulton County Courthouse killer Brian Nichols. Schwall actually succeeded Rowland Barnes, who was allegedly killed by Nichols and who was scheduled to preside over the school funding case before his slaying.

Martin’s group argues that the state hasn’t spent enough to ensure all children can get a quality education. State officials counter that the state does enough and that a victory for the consortium would spark a tax increase.

The consortium’s membership includes McDuffie County.


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