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Colorado Supreme Court Hears Lobato Case

Kirk Siegler

A prolonged lawsuit over how the state funds education went before the Colorado Supreme Court on Thursday.

Parents and several school districts sued the state for failing to offer a uniform and thorough education system and inadequately funding public schools.

Plaintiffs argue that deep budget cuts and a lack of money mean students aren’t getting the education they’re entitled to under state law.

Attorney David Hinojosa represented minority groups in the case.

“They just want to look at the standards, push the rigor on the system the standards but they don’t want to look at the opportunities children need in the classrooms. Without them looking at the other side, of course they’re never going to get the job done.”

But opponents argue the state doesn’t have the resources to pay for the education system its created over time. And at least one state Supreme Court justice seemed sympathetic to that argument.

"I’m concerned that the argument is we can’t do it, therefore we won’t do it,” says justice Gregory Hobbs. “It’s reminding the legislature that they’re setting all these requirements but not backing it up with a rational amount of funds to bring students where we want them to be.”

Attorney for the state  Jonathon Fero says Colorado’s education system is adequate.

“The General Assembly appropriates more money to K12 than any other state service combined. It’s 45% of state budget it’s clearly imp to the legislature and they recognize that.”

The state had originally argued that the courts shouldn’t even weigh in on the education policy debate because it’s up to the state legislature to decide how it funds schools. Chief Justice Michael Bender spoke to what he saw as the central issue in the case.

“How can we provide them with guidance, so what’s the balance between the role of the court and the role of legislature. That’s central to this case.”

The lawsuit was initially filed in 2005 and there’s no timeline for when the court will issue a ruling.

Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.
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