The public schools enroll 1,724,000 students: 43% White, 37% African American, 13% Latino, and 4% Asian, with 62% living in poverty, and 5% learning English. The State spends $9,121 per pupil. (Most recent NCES data)
“The provision of an adequate public education for the citizens shall be a primary obligation of the State of Georgia. Public education for the citizens prior to the college or postsecondary level shall be free and shall be provided for by taxation." Ga. Const. art. VIII, § 1.
“Pursuant to laws…enacted by the General Assembly, public funds may be expended for any of the following purposes: (1) To provide grants, scholarships, loans, or other assistance to students and to parents of students for educational purposes.” Ga. Const. art. VIII, § 7(a).
“Contributions made in support of any educational assistance program…may be deductible for state income tax purposes….” [and] “Public authorities or public corporations…created for such purposes shall be authorized to administer educational assistance programs….” Ga. Const. art. VIII, § 7(b).
In 1981, in McDaniel v. Thomas, the Georgia Supreme Court acknowledged significant disparities in educational opportunities in Georgia and held school finance issues justiciable. The Court also held that education is not a fundamental right and ruled that the State's school funding system did not violate the equal protection or education clauses of the State constitution, finding a rational basis for the identified disparities.
The Court explained that, “even a ‘minimum education’ must provide each child with an opportunity to acquire the basic minimum skills necessary for the enjoyment of the rights of speech and of full participation in the political process.” The Court also concluded that, “while an ‘adequate’ education must be designed to produce individuals who can function in society, it is primarily the legislative branch of government which must give content to the term ‘adequate.’”
In 2014, plaintiffs filed Gaddy v. Georgia Dept. of Revenue, alleging that the Georgia tax-credit voucher program violated the State constitutional provisions that allow tax deductions but not tax credits and allow only public entities to administer such programs. The trial court dismissed all but one of the claims, and the case is before the Georgia Supreme Court on appeal.