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Supreme Court rules on Lobato

Posted: Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Courier editor

DENVER — Although the Colorado Supreme Court was scheduled to release a decision today in the landmark Lobato v State of Colorado Board of Education case, which had its roots in the San Luis Valley, FOX31 Denver reported on Monday the court had already made a decision against the plaintiffs.

Citing the court’s website where the decision allegedly had already been posted, the media outlet reported on Monday the state’s higher court had ruled 4-2 against the plaintiffs. The Courier was unable to obtain independent confirmation of the decision by press time on Monday.

Apparently, the Colorado Supreme Court will be siding with the state in finding that current levels of educational funding are Constitutional.

The decision would overturn a ruling by Denver District Judge Sheila Rappaport in favor of the plaintiffs, which began with Center parent Anthony Lobato and expanded to the 14 school districts in the San Luis Valley and beyond.

The Lobato suit, filed in 2005 against the State of Colorado, the State Board of Education, the State Commissioner of Education, and the governor’s office, challenged the constitutionality of the Colorado school finance system. 

The case finally reached the trial stage in August and September of 2011, when several San Luis Valley residents testified.

Denver District Judge Sheila Rappaport found that Colorado’s system for funding public schools was “irrational, arbitrary, and severely underfunded,” and violated the Colorado Constitution. The state subsequently filed a notice that of appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court.

Six of the seven Colorado Supreme Court justices heard the arguments in the case, with Justice Monica Marquez recusing herself because she had previously worked as a deputy attorney general under Attorney General John Suthers and as such had worked on the state’s defense of the lawsuit.

The decision that should be more broadly known today apparently will be in favor of the state 4-2, with Justices Nancy Rice, Nathan Coats, Allison Eid and Brian Boatright casting the majority decision and Chief Justice Michael Bender and Justice Gregory Hobbes dissenting.

The FOX31 Denver report on Monday cited the court as stating that thorough and uniform education does not mean the General Assembly has to establish “a central public school finance system restricting each school district to equal expenditures per student … The current public school  financing  system  is rationally related to the ‘thorough and uniform’ mandate because it  funds a system of free public schools  that is of a quality marked by completeness, is comprehensive, and is consistent across the state.”

FOX31 Denver interviewed the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, Kathy Gebhardt, on Monday, and she responded: “This ruling is a devastating blow to the children of Colorado. Today the court closed its doors to the children of Colorado. The court has bowed out, so the constitution cannot provide these children with any protection. The court said that we must now trust our politicians to address the acknowledged and enormous resource needs of children throughout the state.”

Gebhardt told FOX31 Denver Monday that education advocates would continue to fight for additional funding for schools.

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