City of Atlanta sues APS, DeKalb schools over annexation law

Credit: File Photo

Credit: File Photo

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Two East Atlanta parents want to send their child to Atlanta Public Schools instead of DeKalb after their property was recently annexed by the city. But a state law says the property is still part of DeKalb’s school district.

The parents, and the city of Atlanta, are suing to overturn the law.

The lawsuit filed last week in Fulton County state court against the Atlanta and DeKalb school districts alleges that the law is unconstitutional.

The city of Atlanta, APS and DeKalb schools all declined or did not respond to a request for comment.

Typically, when Atlanta annexes a property from unincorporated DeKalb County, that property becomes part of APS’s boundaries. But in 2021, Senate Bill 209 was signed into law and changed the rules. The boundaries of APS can only expand by a separate local law or by an intergovernmental agreement between the two school systems, per the law.

So when the property on Cavanaugh Avenue was annexed into Atlanta over the summer, APS and DeKalb refused to let the child attend school in APS, the suit states.

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The city has been approached by other property owners about annexation, the suit states, but is unclear how to respond to inquiries about school district assignment or education-related taxation.

“For many of those property owners, knowing which school district the property would be in following the annexation is a relevant and important factor in their decision making whether to seek annexation,” the lawsuit states.

Annexation has long been an issue between Atlanta and DeKalb County. In 2017, the county sued the city when it annexed 744 acres that included Emory and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The city settled the suit in 2019 by agreeing to split property taxes for five years.

Lawmakers also passed a bill in 2021 that outlined how funding would be shared with DeKalb County on properties annexed by the city of Decatur.

The new lawsuit requests that the court declare SB 209 unconstitutional and void, so the parents can send their child to APS and so that future annexations are not affected.

Staff writer Wilborn P. Nobles III contributed to this report.