Last night, KDVR political reporter Eli Stokols broke the story that the much-anticipated Lobato decision had been posted to the Supreme Court website on Monday night. The official ruling: Lobato was overturned. From the ruling:
“While we sympathize with the Plaintiffs and recognize that the public school financing system might not provide an optimal amount of money to the public schools the statutory public school financing system itself is constitutional.”
In its decision, the Court reversed a ruling of a lower court, and affirmed that the current method of school funding across the state is constitutional. The lawsuit was grounded in Article IX of the Colorado State Constitution, which requires the state to provide a “thorough and uniform” public school system. The plaintiffs went further, asserting that since funding was not adequate at the district level, many districts were unable to assert “meaningful control over educational instruction and quality, in violation of the Local Control Clause.”
When the original district court decision was handed down, liberals from across the state gloated about how they were right all along. Ooops, they were wrong. Guess the evidence brought forth by the plaintiffs wasn’t as “damning” as first believed (ahem, ColoradoPols):
“In 180+ absolutely damning pages of meticulously-compiled evidence, Judge Rappaport agreed with the plaintiffs. The combination of so many limits on the funding of public education with the increasing requirements that standardized testing and school accountability programs have placed on the system has, ruled the judge, resulted in an irrationally underprovisioned and broken system that is failing in its charge to thoroughly and uniformly educate Colorado’s children.”
The lawsuit was filed by people from the San Luis Valley area (Lobato is a parent of two public school students), but it addressed how funds were allocated across all of the 178 government-run K-12 school districts in Colorado. Other plaintiffs included parents, students, and school districts.
This morning, the Denver Post reported that had this been upheld by the Supreme Court, the attorney general’s office (which represented the state) claimed the ruling “could have required the state to raise taxes by 50 percent or see K-12 education consume 89 percent of the general fund budget.”
The Denver Post article also said that the plaintiffs estimated that the budget shortfall for education reached approximately $4 billion, with an additional $18 billion needed to fix buildings and infrastructure. To add some context to this number, the size of the entire state budget in 2013 is approximately $20 billion.
Four justices joined in the majority opinion: Justices Nancy Rice, Nathan Coats, Allison Eid, and Brian Boatright. Chief Justice Michael Bender and Justice Gregory Hobbes offered a dissenting opinion. Justice Monica Marquez recused herself from the hearing due to conflicts of interest as she had served as the deputy Attorney General and had helped prepare the defense for the case.
(Note to Democratic Senate Majority Leader Morgan Carroll: this is what ethical lawyers do when confronted with a conflict of interest.)