Colorado Supreme Court Overturns Ruling on Public School Funding

The Colorado Supreme Court released its decision in the Lobato case, and found the State’s system of funding public schools to be constitutional. The 2005 lawsuit, filed by individuals from the San Luis Valley and later joined by districts across the state, contended that Colorado doesn’t provide a constitutionally mandated “thorough and uniform” system of public education.

The Supreme Court’s decision overturned a decision by a lower court. It found that the current finance system is, in fact, “rationally related” to the thorough and uniform standard. The Supreme Court’s decision comes on the heels of Senate Bill 213, a bill passed by the legislature to revise Colorado’s school finance formula. The legislation was, in part, an attempt to get out in front of the Lobato decision and provide a remedy that would more adequately and equitably fund schools in the state’s 178 districts.

However, because of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, voters must approve SB-213 in November. The proposed tax hike would likely be around $1.1 billion, and stakeholders already are wrestling over what kind of mechanism should be proposed to raise the money — an increased flat tax or a tiered income tax system. The type of tax that is chosen will be important; while educators will support any kind of tax, a graduated tax would hit businesses hard and affect economic development.

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