RSFN-Extras: Colorado Funding Issues to Go Before High Court

Last Updated: November 06, 2008

This article appeared in the November 2008 Rural Policy Matters.

RSFN-Extras is a special online feature for readers of RPM that includes additional details on school funding stories and links to information from other sources. Links are current at the time of posting, but may expire over time, and may require free registration for access.

The Colorado Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on appeal in the Lobato school funding case. The Lobato plaintiffs are a coalition of 14 rural and low income districts known as Children's Voices.

The lawsuit claims that the state is not meeting its constitutional responsibility to provide a "thorough and uniform" public education system because of insufficient funding that is not based on an actual determination of the costs. The suit also alleges that a legislatively enacted Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) limiting school districts' ability to raise money has resulted in a continual reduction in overall school funding.

Earlier this year, a three-judge panel of the state Court of Appeals ruled that school districts lack the authority to sue the state even when they are chronically underfunded and that school funding questions — even when brought by a proper party — are "nonjusticiable." This judicial term means that courts cannot rule on the issue and only the legislature can determine whether school funding is adequate. Courts in several other states have taken this position to avoid deciding school funding cases, and the Colorado Supreme Court will now be asked to rule on this stance for its courts. Arguments are expected to occur early next year.

Read more:

Local coverage, including more details about the tax system problems hurting Colorado districts and quotes from lead plaintiff attorney Kathleen Gebhardt:

Read more from the November 2008 Rural Policy Matters.