02 Mar Jeffco, Colorado Springs School Districts Join Lawsuit Over State Funding

March 2, 2010

By: Tim Hoover
Source: The Denver Post

School districts in Jefferson County and Colorado Springs have joined a lawsuit on whether the state provides enough funding to public schools.

The development throws the weight of two major school districts behind the lawsuit, a case that could force the state to spend far more on schools as well as potentially cha llenge the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights in the state constitution.

Parents of children in Denver Public Schools also have joined in the suit.

The case, Lobato vs. State of Colorado, was first filed in 2005 by 14 school districts in the San Luis Valley and by a group of parents in eight school districts across the state. The school districts and parents argued that the current system of school funding does not meet the state constitution’s requirement that there be a "thorough and uniform" education system.

However, a district judge threw out the case in 2006, ruling that because the system complied with Amendment 23, which mandates that school funding increase every year by at least the rate of inflation, it was constitutional. An appellate court upheld the ruling.

But in October, the Colorado Supreme Court reversed both lower courts, saying that complying with Amendment 23 was not the same as complying with the "thorough and uniform" mandate in the constitution. The court said the plaintiffs could move forward with their lawsuit.

The plaintiffs filed an amendment complaint in Denver District Court on Monday that adds the Jefferson County School District and Colorado Springs School District 11 as plaintiffs.

"Jeffco’s participation in this effort is a legacy that we can leave for the children of Colorado," said Jefferson County Superintendent Cynthia Stevenson in a statement. "Public education is at the heart of our democratic society. I want the public to know that Jeffco will stand up for children and for public education."

Kathy Gebhardt, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said she hoped the case could move to trial in the summer of next year.

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