Colorado Will Appeal Ruling On School Funding

Judge Calls System 'Irrational, Inadequate'

Colorado will appeal a judge's ruling that the state's school funding system violates the constitution.

Gov. John Hickenlooper announced Wednesday that the state will ask the Colorado Supreme Court to review the case.

Earlier this month, a Denver judge sided with parents and 21 school districts challenging the funding system, calling it "irrational and inadequate."

"There is not one school district that is sufficiently funded," Denver District Court Judge Sheila Rappaport said about the state's system in her ruling. "This is an obvious hallmark of an irrational system."

Hickenlooper says the decision provided little practical guidance on how the state should fund a "thorough and uniform" education system, as required by the state constitution. He also faulted the judge for not addressing other parts of the constitution which affect state spending -- the Taxpayers' Bill of Rights, the Gallagher Amendment and Amendment 23.

The plaintiffs have repeatedly said they were not seeking a monetary amount, but they have estimated that Colorado's education system is underfunded by $4 billion. That's more than half of the state's current general fund budget of just over $7 billion.

Lobato v. State of Colorado was originally was filed in 2005, but plaintiffs were unsuccessful at the district court level and again on appeal. The state Supreme Court reversed those decisions in October 2009 and sent the case back to district court.

The case was argued in a five-week trial last summer.

Attorneys for the plaintiff's cited cases in the trial of school districts that don't have enough textbooks for students -- and they said that the ones they do have are so outdated they list former President Bill Clinton as the current president. The attorneys said some students take classes in dilapidated buildings and use old computers that still have floppy disks and maps where the Soviet Union still appears.

State attorneys argued during the trial that Colorado has more than doubled spending on public education since 1994 and more than 40 percent of the budget now goes to education.

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