Beginning Monday, a Denver district court will hear arguments on Lobato v. State of Colorado, a lawsuit that raises the question: is the state's system of public education funding constitutional?
Denver District Judge Sheila Rappaport today issued a 186-page ruling in favor of the plaintiffs in the Labato v. State of Colorado case, concluding the state's education funding is not "thorough and uniform," and therefore unconstitutional according to a report by the Denver Post.
The Lobato lawsuit did not seek a specific sum of money, but does estimate that Colorado is underfunding its educational system by $4 billion, writes KDVR. State officials have been worried that declaring the state's education funding system unconstitutional could force the state to spend most of its general fund on education, when it already spends over 40 percent on it.
Today's ruling however is not likely to be the last word on the lawsuit, since lawyers for the State and the plaintiffs have said that they expect an appeal.
A group of parents from around the state and financially weak school districts filed the lawsuit in 2005 through Children's Voices, a non-profit law firm of equal education advocates. The lawsuit argues that because Colorado's constitution calls for a "thorough and uniform system of free public schools throughout the state," the state's current educational funding system is unconstitutional. The lawsuit therefore seeks more money for public education, but lawyers representing the plaintiffs say they aren't looking for a specific number.
"We're just asking the judge to determine whether kids in Colorado are getting the quality education the [state] Constitution guarantees," Lisa Decker, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs said to KDVR.
Supporters of the suit say that Colorado spent $1,809 less per pupil than the national average in the 2008-2009 school year.
Colorado's Constitution however was drafted in 1876 before the state had a public school system, according to a report by Law Week Colorado. The court then will have to rule what the constitution means by "thorough and uniform."
This year the state still plans to spend 40 percent of its $7 billion general fund budget on K-12 education, though it's still a five percent decrease that amounts to approximately $400 less per student, according to the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities.
"I am the biggest supporter of education you can imagine. But, if we lose, we could go from spending $3 million of the general fund on education to essentially spending all of the state's general fund [on education]," Hickenlooper told 9News. He added that if the state loses, the state may have to seek an additional $2-4 billion that would cost the state elsewhere.
According to the Denver Post, Attorney General John Suthers said he believed the trial could end up costing the state $3 million.