Colorado Supreme Court hears school funding case -- Lobato v. The State of Colorado

DENVER - The Colorado Supreme Court heard oral arguments Thursday morning case that could change how Colorado pays for public education -- Lobato v. State of Colorado. 

Plaintiffs seek more money for K-12 education. The lawsuit contends "that as a result of irrational and inadequate funding of public education, the (state is) failing to provide for a 'thorough and uniform system' of public education and that the public school finance system fails to provide the financial resources necessary for local boards of education to exercise control of instruction in their schools."

The lawsuit was filed in June 2005. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include dozens of parents and 21 Colorado school districts including Jefferson County and Colorado Springs District 11. The case is named for Taylor Lobato, who was a middle school student when her parents filed the lawsuit. She is now in college.

"I didn't know that I wasn't receiving those opportunities at the very beginning," she said after Thursday's hearing.

"Standards can be modified, but we have to have a policy," said Plantiff's attorney Terry Miller after the arguments.

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.

State officials, including Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, insist the state cannot afford to spend as much as plaintiffs want on schools. Officials point out that Colorado has more than doubled spending on public education since 1994.

"In general, we give more money to K-12 education, than any others combined," said the defendant's representative Thursday.

In a 183-page decision issued by a Denver District Court on December 9, 2011, a Denver judge sided with parents and 21 school districts challenging the funding system, calling it "irrational, arbitrary 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."

The defendants appealed.

Hickenlooper said 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.

Print this article Back to Top