State Superintendent of Schools
Local boards of education are not authorized by statute to provide transportation to students for extracurricular activities by leasing vehicles for that use.
Your predecessor asked for an official opinion on the question whether a local board of education can contract for transportation services for extracurricular activities, including interscholastic athletic events. For purposes of this opinion, the term "contract for" means a lease contract for the use of a bus which is not a regular school bus, but is leased for the purpose of providing transportation for extracurricular events.
The Georgia Constitution (1983) at Art. VIII, Sec. VI, Para. I(b) provides that local "[s]chool tax funds shall be expended only for the support and maintenance of public schools, public vocational-technical schools, public education, and activities necessary or incidental thereto, including school lunch purposes." State tax money is similarly restricted, albeit by statute rather than the Constitution.
Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 20-2-411 limits the use of state and local education funds to "educational purposes and may be used to pay . . . for the utilization of school facilities, including school buses, for extracurricular and interscholastic activities, . . . when such activities are sponsored by local boards of education as an integral part of the total school program." (Emphasis added.) The phrase "for educational purposes" as used in a former constitutional provision (Ga. Const. 1976, Art. VII, Sec. II, Para. I) which was the apparent pattern for O.C.G.A. § 20-2-411 has been strictly construed. Wright v. Absalom, 224 Ga. 6, 11 (1968) (school lunch program is not an educational purpose; "eating is not education."). See 1954-56 Op. Att'y Gen. p. 236 (Unofficial); 1985 Op. Att'y Gen. 85-34.
Although the school systems have broad power to "do those things properly determined to be necessary or incidental to public education," Russell v. Fletcher, 244 Ga. 854 (1979), extracurricular activities have never been thought to be necessary or incidental to education. See 1971 Op. Att'y Gen. 71-10; 1979 Op. Att'y Gen. U79-6. Thus, the only authority to provide transportation to extracurricular events is that found in O.C.G.A. § 20-2-411, and that authority is limited. 1979 Op. Att'y Gen. U79-6. The phrase in the statute "utilization of school facilities" means using those facilities already owned or which the school has an existing arrangement to use for regular school purposes. It is not broad enough to encompass a special arrangement to acquire a "facility" such as a bus for the purpose of extracurricular transportation.
Based on the above analysis, it is my opinion that the language "utilization of . . . school buses, for extracurricular and interscholastic activities" cannot be read to authorize leasing vehicles for the purpose of the transportation of students to extracurricular activities. The school system may use state or local revenues to provide that kind of transportation only through the use of school buses which are regularly used for transporting students to and from school. Accordingly, it is my official opinion that a local board of education may not provide transportation to students for extracurricular activities by leasing vehicles for that use.
KATHRYN L. ALLEN
Senior Assistant Attorney General