Federal judge asks Georgia high court to consider DeKalb schools case

Now that Gov. Nathan Deal has appointed a new school board in DeKalb County, it’s up to Georgia’s highest court to decide whether to let the decision hold.

As expected, a federal judge has asked the Georgia Supreme Court to consider the constitutionality of the 2011 law that gave Deal authority to suspend six DeKalb board members.

Deal replaced two-thirds of the board Wednesday, and U.S. District Richard Story issued an order Thursday asking Georgia’s high court to answer two questions agreed upon by Deal and the board members he booted.

Does the state’s new law violate a constitutional “doctrine” that school systems be controlled by elected school boards?

And does the law, in allowing the removal of school board members, extend unconstitutional powers to the governor?

The high court doesn’t have to agree to hear the questions, and any decision could take months, observers say.

Meanwhile, the plaintiffs, former school board Chairman Eugene Walker and his five fellow ousted board members, will be sidelined and possibly removed permanently.

They can petition for their jobs back later this month, but they’ll have to ask the same governor who removed them. The law gives the governor three months to decide.

Deal suspended the board members under a law that authorizes that action in systems on probation. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed DeKalb on probation in December, alleging school board mismanagement and nepotism. Deal has said he hopes his new appointees can quickly address the SACS complaints.