Taylor and Alexa Lobato, et. al. and S. Ortega and B. Ortega, et. al. , v. The State of Colorado; Colorado State Board of Education; Robert K. Hammond, as Commissioner of Education; and John Hickenlooper, as Governor, 2013CO30 (May 28, 2013)

Catch 22: “A situation in which a desired outcome … is impossible to attain because of a set of inherently illogical … conditions.” Amer. Heritage Dictionary. Plaintiffs sought to remedy inherent disparities in an educational system uniformly inequitable: the wealthiest district can raise $219,000 per pupil and the poorest only $1,100. However, the standard is “thorough and uniform.” The Court held this means complete, comprehensive, and consistent, not equal. Also, the Constitution requires Local Control, so districts must control locally-raised education funds without the state mandating how such funds are used. The system is constitutional because it meets these standards. The dissents disagreed, finding the system’s disparities are not rationally related to the standards; they would also require the legislature to equitably fund its educational mandates.

http://www.courts.state.co.us/userfiles/file/Court_Probation/Supreme_Court/Opinions/2012/12SA25.pdf

http://www.cobar.org/opinions/opinion.cfm?opinionid=8959&courtid=2

For a link to all of the briefs filed in this case, click HERE.
(The CLR does not endorse or reject the views of “Children’s Voices” whose website is linked here).

Prior Opinions
Note: justiciable means the ability of a court to issue an opinion on the substantive questions presented.

Court of Appeals No. 06CA0733 , issued January 24, 2008

Holding: “We conclude that as political subdivisions, the school districts lack standing, and that the parents’ challenge to the adequacy of school financing is a nonjusticiable political question.”

Supreme Court No. 08SC185, October 19, 2009

Holding: “We reverse the court of appeals’ holdings that the plaintiff school districts lack standing to sue the state and that the plaintiffs have alleged a nonjusticiable claim.”

Trial Court Opinion upon remand from the Supreme Court, December 9, 2011.

Holding: “The Court concludes that the Colorado public school finance system is not rationally related to the mandate to establish and maintain a thorough and uniform system of free public schools. On the contrary, the public school finance system is irrational, arbitrary, and severely underfunded. This results in the denial of the rights of the Individuals Plaintiffs guaranteed by Article IX, section 2 of the Colorado constitution and the rights and powers of the School Districts pursuant to Article IX, sections 2 and 15.”

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1 Comment

Filed under Appellate Review Challenged, Constitutional, Government, Interlocutory Review

One response to “Taylor and Alexa Lobato, et. al. and S. Ortega and B. Ortega, et. al. , v. The State of Colorado; Colorado State Board of Education; Robert K. Hammond, as Commissioner of Education; and John Hickenlooper, as Governor, 2013CO30 (May 28, 2013)

  1. [My personal view/take on the matter}

    The Court had only two issues before it — what does the Constitution mean by “thorough and uniform”? and what constitutes “local control.” As Justice Hobbs points out, the dictionary definitions of “thorough and uniform” (which is all the majority relied on) are more expansive than the definitions selected by the Court. The very same logic and definitions employed by the majority could be applied to find that such disparities are not “uniform”. It was a choice of definitional scope; and that choice is not grounded in anything more than the individual judgment of the 4 justices in the majority (3 of whom dissented from the decision to hear the case in Lobato’s first trip to the Court).

    The reason educational funding is a Catch 22 is because of local control. The disparities arise from local differences – differences that the Constitution builds into the education funding system. That is, the State is prohibited from preventing wealthy school districts from spending dramatically more of their own money on their schools than poor districts because of the Local Control provision in the Constitution. The fact that poor districts do not have the money to spend could only be addressed by giving them more State money (at the expense of other school districts) — but the State could not match the wealth of the local districts without running afoul of the same requirement that educational funding be “uniform”. The State must treat all districts “uniformly” (ie “CONSISTENT”) without respect to their individual wealth.

    Although none of the opinions really put the matter in those terms, in my view, that is the actual effect, and therefore is the most important, but least understood aspect of the decision. The legislature CANNOT (Constitutionally) fix the problem because wealthy districts will always be able to give their students a financial advantage no matter what legislation is passed. That advantage is built into the entire Constitutional structure.

    Oh — Whether the Court should be deciding the Constitutional standards for educational funding is a moot point — it already addressed that issue — it can (and I think it should). So, even if you disagree, there is no real discussion to have as to that issue. See this link: http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=7748474127639561954&q=taylor+lobato&hl=en&as_sdt=4,6

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