Yesterday the Georgia Supreme Court heard arguments from attorney Tom Cox who said that the law giving the governor the authority to remove school boards and members of school boards was unconstitutional. Stefan Ritter, representing the Governor and the State Board of Education, argued that the law, designed to protect Georgia childrens’ education and Georgia taxpayers’ investment in it, was “not punitive” and was constitutionally permitted.
The case at hand was Eugene Walker vs. the State BOE, and if you want to be informed with, you know, “facts” and stuff, there’s 40 minutes of video at this link. There’s a case summary for both sides (in a pdf) at this link. The question is two-fold and pretty simple, as US District Judge Richard Story framed it when he sent the case over to the SCOG:
“Does § 20-2-73 violate the Georgia Constitution’s doctrine that each school system shall be under the control of a local board of education whose members are elected, [and] does the potential removal of school board members under § 20-2-73 unconstitutionally exceed the General Assembly’s authority to enact general laws regarding local boards of education?”
Judge Story also noted, in what may be the judicial understatement of the year: “…a decision on these issues will have a significant impact on the public education system in Georgia.”
Public officials can be removed from office for various reasons. Is a school system’s diminished accreditation status a constitutionally sufficient reason to remove school board members? I think it is, but I don’t wear a black robe. If it’s not -what would be?