When the announcement came down on Tuesday from the Colorado Supreme Court that it ruled 4-2 to overturn the Lobato education funding court decision, many may have thought that it was a blow against school funding in Colorado.
While supporters of pursuing a court ordered funding mandate may see it that way, pragmatic lawmakers likely realize that the decision will actually do more to help future education funding far more than hinder them.
If the Colorado Supreme Court had ruled to uphold the Lobato decision, the legislature would have been forced to boost funding for education without the direct means to raise taxes. Lawmakers would have been legally bound to pull funding from nearly every other state service to fulfill the legal demands of the ruling.
If that came to pass, the campaign for the proposed $1.1 billion dollar tax initiative that will be on this November’s ballot would have an entirely different tone. Instead of concentrating on the positive things the measure may mean for education in Colorado, the campaign would be about how necessary this tax increase would be to return all of the other services that the state is responsible for providing, but would be unable to if the Lobato case had been upheld.
Colorado voters can be a generous bunch. When it comes to approving tax increases, when strong reasoning is provided with reasonable measures, Coloradans can indeed decide to tax themselves more. However, like any rationale group of voters, they prefer the decision to truly be theirs and not have their arms twisted for other reasons.
The merits of the Lobato case may indeed stress the need to examine and reform the way education in funded in Colorado. However, if the plaintiffs had won the day, they may have ended up doing more damage to the education of kids in Colorado.
The funding mandate that would have accompanied a positive Lobato ruling would have made education funding as the reason that every other service disappeared in Colorado. Education would become the scapegoat for every other problem the state would suffer from. At that point, education would carry such a negative connotation that it would suffer from other problems.
Voters would punish education measures at the local level, where frankly the funding is most important, due to what was going on at the state level. Schools that still performed poorly, despite renewed funding, would be vilified and become the rationale for greater reform towards vouchers and charter schools.
In a nutshell, what would be meant to help an important institution would have dealt an incredible blow against it.
With the Lobato case losing in the Supreme Court, it now can actually do the greatest service for education in Colorado. Bringing a focus to school funding problems will give a boost to the tax increase measure this November. It will inspire more sympathy and potential action to remedy the problem.
In a nutshell, losing the ruling may actually do more to motivate voters to do something about funding more than mandating that action through the courts.
About The Blogger
- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.