MCSD a plaintiff in case on state’s school funding system | CraigDailyPress.com

MCSD a plaintiff in case on state’s school funding system

Bridget Manley

The Moffat County School District and other plaintiffs in Lobato v. Colorado, a case challenging the constitutionality of the state's school finance system, are closer to learning the outcome.

Findings of fact in the case were scheduled to be filed Friday, lawyer Kathy Gebhardt told Moffat County School Board members during their Thursday work session. After that, the case is set to go before a judge.

Gebhardt, who spoke to the board via phone conference, works for Children's Voices, the Colorado-based nonprofit law firm handling the case.

It's unknown when the judge will issue a ruling, she said Monday.

The case was originally filed in 2005, and plaintiffs include 21 school districts, as well as parents from eight school districts in the state, Gebhardt said. In a month-long trial that ended Sept. 2 in Denver District Court, representatives for the plaintiffs contended that state's method for funding public schools violates the state constitution.

"The main issue (was) that the state's never really studied how much it costs to implement the mandates that they've imposed on school districts," Gebhardt said.

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"It's resulted in a system that we believe violates the thorough and uniform clause of the constitution and has special deleterious effects on special populations of students, such as at-risk students and special needs students."

The state's case challenged whether giving more funds to schools leads to better education.

"The state argued that money doesn't matter," Gebhardt said.

If the judge rules in the plaintiffs' favor, the task of overhauling the state's school funding system will fall to the state legislature.

"We would like to see the legislature design and implement a system of funding that meets every student's needs and every school district's needs and that meets the mandates that the state has handed down to school districts," Gebhardt said.

Regardless of how the judge rules, she said she expects the decision will be appealed.

The Moffat County School District is a relative newcomer to the case. The school board voted in June 2010 to join the lawsuit, which at last count included more than 100 plaintiffs.

Moffat County falls among the bottom 10 percent of districts in the state in terms of school funding, school board president Jo Ann Baxter said.

Board members discussed Lobato vs. Colorado in the light of that fact and decided that joining the case "would be a way for us to bring that to the attention of the state of Colorado," she said.

"It made sense for us to be part of that case," Baxter said.

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At a glance …

• Judge to rule in case challenging constitutionality of Colorado’s school finance system.

• The Moffat County School District is one of more than 100 plaintiffs in Lobato vs. Colorado, which includes parents and other school districts.

• Case contends Colorado’s school funding system doesn’t provide for “thorough and uniform” education system.

• Lawyer: Date of final ruling is unknown.

Quotable

“The main issue (was) that the state’s never really studied how much it costs to implement the mandates that they’ve imposed on school districts.”

— Kathy Gebhardt, a lawyer with Children’s Voices, which is handling the Lobato vs. Colorado lawsuit

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