State spending enough on K-12 education, it says in court appeal

The state will appeal last week’s court ruling that the Colorado Legislature isn’t spending enough money on K–12 education.

The Denver District Court ruling in Lobato v. Colorado, which could require the state to spend up to $4 billion more a year on public schools, raised numerous constitutional and legal issues that require interpretation by the Colorado Supreme Court, Gov. John Hickenlooper said Wednesday.

In that 189-page ruling, Judge Sheila Rappaport said the Legislature has passed numerous laws in recent years establishing strict education standards, but it has not adequately funded schools to be able to comply with those laws.

“The judge’s decision provided little practical guidance on how the state should fund a ‘thorough and uniform’ system of public education,” the governor said. “Moreover, while the judge focused on the inadequacy of state funding, she did not reconcile this issue with other very relevant provisions of the Constitution, including the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, the Gallagher Amendment and Amendment 23.”

Advocates for increased spending on education have long argued that the revenue-limiting provisions in TABOR and Gallagher prevent the Legislature from adequately funding education.

TABOR, approved by voters in 1992, limits how much tax revenue the state can collect, while the 1982 Gallagher Amendment limits property taxes that generally pay for education. Amendment 23, approved by voters in 2000, requires the state to increase funding to education each year.

Lisa Weil, director of policy and communication for Great Education Colorado, said it was interesting that Hickenlooper would raise the question of TABOR and Gallagher, which the district court did not rule on.

Still, the group said it would be best not to appeal the case and just comply with it.

Weil said that regardless of what the Supreme Court does, the Legislature should reform how it funds K–12 education and find a way to put more money into it.

“If the state really wanted to move forward and try to fix this, if we can get some urgency that we’ve been out of compliance for who knows how many years, the state could say, ‘OK. We get it,’ ” she said. “Let’s just get to the remedy phase and figure this thing out instead of going to the Supreme Court.”

The Colorado State Board of Education held a special meeting Wednesday to discuss the case, but delayed voting until next week the possibility of joining the appeal.


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Oh brother!

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