Judge dismisses challenge to Colorado school-funding system
DENVER – An education advocacy group on Thursday said it would appeal the dismissal of its lawsuit alleging Colorado’s schools are underfunded by up to $1 billion per year.Denver Judge Michael Martinez last week ruled that any dispute would have to be resolved by lawmakers, not judges.Children’s Voices filed the lawsuit last year in Denver District Court, arguing that teacher salaries, school construction, classroom equipment and school programs have suffered even after voters in 2000 approved Amendment 23, which requires annual increases in school funding.One of the group’s attorneys, Kathy Gebhardt, said the courts need to determine whether the funding scheme is constitutional.”It then would be up to the legislature to design a constitutional system,” she said.Martinez dismissed the case last week, saying the plaintiffs couldn’t sufficiently prove their claims and that courts do not have the power to address whether education funding is adequate as long as it meets minimum requirements. He said the state’s funding system does meet constitutional requirements.Martinez also rejected arguments that local tax revenues for schools should be subject to a constitutional mandate that school districts receive uniform funding. Accepting that argument would reduce local control of schools and hurt districts’ ability to manage their schools, Martinez wrote.The judge also agreed with the state attorney general’s office that school districts that joined Children’s Voices in filing the lawsuit do not have the legal standing to challenge the constitutionality of the state’s school-funding laws.”This decision is a victory for local control and for the idea that it is the responsibility of elected officials – not the courts – to decide how we fund public education,” Attorney General John Suthers said.Children’s Voices represents parents and students from around the state as well as 14 school districts.
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