Georgia State Board of Education
State incentive grants under O.C.G.A. § 20-2-290 may be awarded for sixth grades only where they are housed in middle schools also containing the seventh and eighth grades.
The State Board of Education has received a request from the Cobb County Board of Education for a middle school incentive grant pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 20-2-290. The school system has divided middle school students in a particular area so that sixth grade students would be placed in an elementary school facility and seventh and eighth grade students would be placed with ninth graders in a middle school. Your question is whether the school system qualifies for a grant for the sixth grade since that grade is not housed in the same school with the seventh and eighth grades. It is my opinion that the statutory requirements of O.C.G.A. § 20-2-290 are not met when the sixth grade is placed in a different school than the seventh and eighth grades and the grant is not authorized in this instance.
Code Section 20-2-290 provides that local boards of education may organize their schools and fix the grade levels as they choose, but in order to be eligible for a middle school incentive grant, there are a number of statutory qualifications. Those qualifications represent policy decisions by the General Assembly as to how middle schools should be organized. Therefore, each local system is free to make its own policy decisions as to middle school organization, but if it wishes to receive additional state money for middle schools, it must organize them in conformity with O.C.G.A. § 20-2-290. That Code Section states specifically that "[s]chools with students in the sixth grade shall not be eligible for the middle school grants if the sixth grades are not housed in middle schools which also contain both grades seven and eight." The Code Section is clear and unambiguous and thus is not subject to interpretation. See Hollowell v. Jove, 247 Ga. 678 (1981). Since the Cobb County grant request is for sixth grades that are not housed in a middle school with seventh and eighth grades, it must be denied because the statute does not authorize the incentive grant.
Thus, it is my official opinion that sixth grades housed in an elementary school that does not also house the seventh, and eighth grades are not eligible for incentive grants pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 20-2-290.
KATHRYN L. ALLEN
Senior Assistant Attorney General