“Reading the two sets of briefs, it’s like two ships passing in the night” – Coats, J. (oral argument). This case raised one of two questions about Amendment 23’s (Am 23) school funding mandate: what does “base” mean or, was it rendered meaningless? A “negative factor” was created by the legislature for the purpose of reducing the State’s school funding obligations. Am 23 mandates annual increases to “statewide base per pupil funding.” The Negative Factor reduces nearly all other parts of the funding formula without reducing “base” funding. The majority held that so long as there is no reduction in “base funding,” the “algebraic significance [of the Negative Factor] within the funding formula is immaterial [to Am 23’s mandate].” The dissent noted that the Negative Factor eliminates the school funding increases intended by Am 23, creating fact questions that preclude dismissal.
Tag Archives: Public Schools
Lindi Dwyer and Paul Dwyer, as individuals and parents of Jayda Dwyer, Joslyn Dwyer, Janesha Dwyer, and Jentri Dwyer, et. al. v. The State of Colorado; Robert Hammond as Commissioner of Education; and John Hickenlooper as Governor of the State of Colorado, 2015CO58 (Sept. 21, 2015)
“Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private school, supported entirely by private contributions.” Ulysses Grant. Petitioners challenged a scholarship program that required enrollment in a “charter school” and admission to a qualified private school. Taxpayer money funded the scholarship, which was paid to the parents who then paid the private school. Nearly 93% of recipients enrolled in religious schools. The Court held the program unconstitutional under Colorado’s expansive prohibition on public funding of “sectarian” schools because the program “supports and sustains” such schools. The element of private choice was insufficient absent safeguards against funding religious schools. As such, invalidating the program does not violate the 1st Amendment. Petitioners lacked taxpayer standing to challenge the program under a statute.
St. Vrain Valley School District RE-1J and Cathy O’Donnell v. A.R.L. a minor; Randy Loveland; and Mary Nicole Loveland, 2014CO33 (May 19, 2014)
A playground through a lawyers eye: “Although the individual pieces of equipment each promote specific play activities (e.g., swinging or playing in the sand), they nevertheless collectively promote the common purpose of play and together make a playground a ‘facility’ by virtue of the strong relationship between the individual components.” – Opinion. In this case, applying and expanding on the analysis set forth in Daniel v. Colorado Springs, the Court concluded that a public school playground and its collection of equipment is a “public facility” “located in” a “recreation area.” The case focused on what a “public facility” is: 1) relatively permanent or affixed to land; 2) man-made; 3) accessible to the public; and 4) maintained by a public entity for a common public purpose. The zip line that injured the plaintiff was merely a “dangerous condition,” not itself a “facility.”
Taxpayers for Public Education and Cindra Barnard, et. al. v. Douglas County School District; Douglas County Board of Education; Colorado State Board of Education; and Colorado Department of Education, and Florence and Derrick Doyel, et. al. Intervenors, 2012COA20 (February 28, 2013)
Money merely represents value; but it has come to symbolize so much more. Here, the Douglas County Public School District created a voucher system that gives taxpayer money to private and/or religious schools. The trial court held it was unconstitutional. The court of appeals reversed based on 4 conclusions: 1) courts may not inquire into the extent of religious instruction, 2) religious institutions are not directly benefited, 3) parents directed the funds, and 4) the system gave parents neutral funding choices that maintained the free educational system. The court also held Plaintiffs lacked standing to enforce a statute. It avoided deciding whether Colorado’s constitutional religion provisions were coextensive with the First Amendment. The dissent concluded the system was a pipeline of public money to religious schools, thus violating Colorado’s Constitution.
A nine year old elementary school student suffered a compound fracture of her arm when she fell off a “zip-line” that was part of the public school’s playground equipment. The child and her parents sued. The school claimed, and the trial court agreed, that it was immune from the claim as a governmental entity. However, public entities can be sued if injuries result from a dangerous condition of a “public facility” maintained by a public entity. The court of appeals concluded, apparently for the first time, that public school playground equipment was a “public facility.” It was “public” because it was visible to all and not secluded. It was a “facility” because it was man-made, a mechanical device, and installed for children to play upon. The school, therefore, was not immune to a “public facility” claim. The school was, however, immune from the negligent supervision claim.