Colorado Court Rules School Funding Unconstitutional

In a ruling that could have profound consequences for Colorado's budget, a Denver district court judge last week said the state's school-funding system is not "thorough and uniform" as mandated by the state constitution.

The case, Lobato vs. State of Colorado, was filed in 2005 by a group of parents in the San Luis Valley but expanded to include districts from across the state. They reportedly have contended the state underfunds education by as much as $4 billion per year.

"It is also apparent that increased funding will be required," District Judge Sheila Rappaport wrote. A published report says lawyers for the state, represented by Attorney General John Suthers' office, argued that the question of how much should be spent on education should be left to the legislature and voters. They also said more money alone is not necessarily the solution to better schools.

Litigation has historically been a common avenue to push for increased or equitable school funding. Lawsuits have been filed in at least 44 states, according to The National Access Network, a group based at Columbia University advocating equitable education. Of those, Access reports plaintiffs were victorious in 25 states. Courts ruled for defendants in 17 states, and two other states have had mixed results.

The Denver Post reports Rappaport’s decision is almost certain to be appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court.