Lobato Ruling: Changes to School Funding

Many educators in the state are calling it an unprecedented victory for public school students. Friday, Denver District Judge Sheila Rappaport ruled in favor of school districts and concerned parents in the Lobato vs. State case.

In that decision, Rappaport called the state's system for funding schools "irrational, arbitrary and severely underfunded,” therefore violating the Colorado Constitution.

It's been a long road since the Lobato case began in 2005. Twenty-one school districts as well as children and parents were involved, including Anthony Lobato.

"What a great opportunity for the legislature to step up, for the people of Colorado to step up...I think we can become the leading educational system in the nation,” Lobato, the father of two daughters who attended public school in Colorado, said.

Rappaport's decision orders the state to fund and implement a system that allows all students in the state to graduate with the skills and knowledge necessary for post-secondary education, citizenship, and workforce participation.

"It means that we're finally going to have to answer the questions of what are we expected to do and what are you going to give us to do that with,” Jan Tanner, board president of Colorado Springs District 11, said. “There's no connection right now with those requirements and seeing that we have the resources to make sure it happens."

Lawyers for the state argued that throwing more money at the system isn't necessarily the solution for better schools, and that it should be decided by voters and legislators.

"What they said all along is they didn't believe this was a case that belonged in the courts,” Lead counsel Kathleen Gebhardt said. “So we call on them to work with us in the legislature to resolve this problem."

Gebhardt has always maintained Colorado can afford to pay for its schools, and now has to find a way.

"It's time for no excuses, and that we roll up our sleeves; and we are a wealthy state...find the resources to do right by our children,” Gebhardt said.

She, and her clients, are now waiting to see if the state will appeal.

Many educators want the legislature to start working on education finance immediately even if there is an appeal, but the Lobato case is controversial.

Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, has already said that education is a priority: "The challenge in front of us now is providing a quality education in the face of ever increasing entitlement spending."