Colorado Judge: State Education Finance System Unconstitutional

Judy Hartnett's picture
Thursday, December 15, 2011

Denver District Court Judge Sheila A. Rappaport ordered Dec. 9 that the state of Colorado reform its Public School Finance Act to make sure public education meets the state constitution’s guarantee that the state will provide a “thorough and uniform” system of public schools. The order was issued as the conclusion of Lobato v. State of Colorado, which was first filed in 2005.

On June 23, 2005, parents Anthony and Denise Lobato, along with other parents and a number of school districts across the state, filed a complaint in Denver District Court challenging the constitutionality of the Colorado system of public school finance.

They alleged that the Colorado Constitution, as established in 1876, mandates that the “general assembly shall ... provide for the establishment and maintenance of a thorough and uniform system of free public schools throughout the state, wherein all residents of the state, between the ages of 6 and 21 years, may be educated gratuitously.”

They also alleged that “A system of public school finance that fails to provide sufficient financial resources to the school districts to permit local boards of education to provide the services, instructional programs, materials, and facilities necessary to meet the substantive mandate of the Education Clause violates the (Constitution’s) Local Control Clause.”

After a motion to dismiss took four years to make it through the Colorado Supreme Court, the case went into a five-week trial earlier this year, wrapping up in late July.

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