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 1. The Governance Structure of Georgia's Public Schools

The Georgia Constitution declares that “the provision of an adequate public education for the citizens shall be a primary obligation of the State of Georgia.” 1 Providing an adequate public education involves a partnership between the state government and local units of government, the 180 local school districts of the state. In addition, Georgia law provides that both the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Department of Corrections are to be considered a “special school district” for the purpose of providing an education to school-age youths incarcerated within facilities under their jurisdiction and for the purpose of applying for federal funds. The Board of Juvenile Justice and the Board of Corrections serve as governing boards of education for these school districts.2 Georgia’s school districts are governed by local boards of education elected by the citizens and administered by school superintendents and other leadership personnel employed by these boards. While local boards of education are charged with the “management and control” of the public schools, they must respond to and follow the federal and state laws, regulations and rules enacted by the Congress, Georgia’s General Assembly, the State Board of Education, the State Department of Education and many other state and federal administrative agencies and the subsequent interpretations placed on those enactments by the state and federal courts.

Georgia is divided into 159 counties, each of which constitutes a school district. In addition, 21 cities have maintained independent school districts, for a total of 180 separate school districts operated and managed by a local board of education. To understand how each of these school districts and schools is governed requires some knowledge of the complex governance structure which is contained in state law. This chapter will summarize the provisions of Georgia’s Constitution and several state statutes which create and define those basic structures of public school governance.

Endnotes
Questions
1. 1 What is the distinction between the board of education and the school district?
1. 2 What is the constitutional authority of a local board of education?
1. 3 What does the term "management and control" mean when applied to the authority of a local board of education?
1. 4 How does a board of education control and manage its schools?
1. 5 What is the distinction between county and independent boards of education?
1. 6 Is it lawful for a city currently without a school system to create an independent school system for students residing within that city?
1. 7 Does an independent or city board of education have the same authority to control and manage its schools as a county board of education?
1. 8 How are city and county school systems merged or consolidated?
1. 9 May a municipality with an independent school district annex additional territory and extend the boundaries of the independent school system?
1. 10 What are local school councils and what authority and responsibilities do they have?
1. 12 Who serves on school councils and how are they selected?
1. 13 What role does the principal of the school play as a part of the school council?
1. 14 How are meetings of the council to be held?
1. 15 What are the primary responsibilities of the council and its members?
1. 16 What is the relationship between the school council and the board of education?
1. 17 What does Georgia law provide about the role of the state in the governance of public education?
1. 18 What authority is given by Georgia law to the State Board of Education?
1. 19 Does the Chair of the State Board have any individual authority under the law?
1. 20 Do the other members of the State Board have any individual responsibilities?
1. 21 What is the authority of the State Superintendent of Schools?
1. 22 What other state agencies have a role in the operation of the public schools?
1. 23 What is the purpose, function and composition of the Education Coordinating Council?
1. 24 What is the responsibility of the Office of Student Achievement?