DENVER (CBS4) – Even though an appeal is certainly on the horizon, state officials have to figure out how to nearly triple the education budget when they say the money isn’t there.
On Friday, after a 5-week trial, a judge in the Lobato case ruled that Colorado’s public school system is severely underfunded and ordered that the state figure out a way to allocate an additional $4 billion to schools in its budget.
The plaintiffs, made up of parents, students and nearly two dozen school districts, weren’t asking for damages, but rather that the state give an additional $4 billion to education.
Two members of a multi-plaintiff team, Taylor and Anthony Lobato, argued that Colorado’s school districts are severely underfunded. The lawsuit, called the Lobato case, argued that there is no rational connection between the state’s school funding system and what it’s asking the schools to accomplish.
Three years ago the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the public school finance system must be reviewed by the courts to assure that it meets the constitutional requirement of a thorough and uniform system of public education. A Denver district judge just ruled that it does not.
The state general fund is currently just over $7 billion. Of that, about $2.8 billion, or more than 40 percent, goes toward education or K-12. Giving an additional $4 billion to education would consume nearly all of the state’s general fund.
“I don’t know how we would cover it. It would mean there would be no money for State Patrol, for any type of transportation, for corrections; there would be no money for judicial, it would basically take everything away plus a huge part of human services,” said Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen.
“Well you know this education system … it’s been guaranteed to us in the constitution and it’s been here for a long time and the students of Colorado haven’t been getting that,” student plaintiff Taylor Lobato said. “It’s not just for those students who have out-of-date text books, it’s for all of the students.”
The judge also said the state could keep its current budget and appropriations in place until the higher court makes its decision on what should be done.
State attorneys argued that Colorado has more than doubled spending on public education in the past 15 years.