Ruling Threatens Legality Of Ga. School Regulations

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The Georgia Department of Education has appealed a state judge's ruling that threatens the legality of hundreds of regulations governing the operation of public schools.

But department officials say they expect the decision will cause no disruption in the schools or problems in carrying out the mandates of the Quality Basic Education Act, Georgia's wide-ranging 1985 school-reform law.

"We're operating as usual," said H. F. Johnson, associate state superintendent for administrative services. "There has been no relaxation of standards."

Hundreds of Rules Involved

Judge Frank M. Eldridge ruled last month that regulations passed by the state board of education since 1971 did not comply with the state's Administrative Procedures Act, which requires that proposed rules be filed with the secretary of state and that the public be given adequate notice.

The case was filed by a Meriwether County 4th-grade teacher who lost her job at the end of the 1986-87 school year after she received low marks on a competency evaluation performed by a regional assessment team. Regulations issued under the qbe require teachers to pass the evaluation in order to retain their certification.

The judge held that the regulations were flawed because they did not follow the administrative-procedures law. In addition, he concluded that the evaluation standards that resulted in the teacher's dismissal were "vague, indefinite, and arbitrary, subject to broad subjective interpretation, and lacking any rationale for correction and improvement."

State Fashioning Appeal

The department is appealing the decision on two grounds, according to Mr. Johnson. First, he said, educational institutions, such as the board of regents and the state's colleges and universities, are exempted from compliance with the administrative-procedures law. In addition, the state constitution empowers the board of education to enact regulations.

If the judge's ruling is upheld on appeal, hundreds of regulations promulgated by the board could be rendered invalid until they are re-authorized properly. Some local officials have predicted a state of chaos if that were to happen.

But state officials have suggested that there would be little change in classrooms even if Judge Eldridge's decision is upheld. According to Werner Rogers, the state superintendent of education, it would merely be a "momentary management problem" to re-enact the rules.

The state attorney general's office is handling the appeal on behalf of the education department.--mw

Vol. 08, Issue 01

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