MCSD joins lawsuit over state education funding
June 11, 2010
The Moffat County School Board
In other action
Held a public hearing on the 2010-11 school district budget. Mark Rydberg, district finance director, gave a brief presentation, citing few minor changes to the budget since the May board meeting. The budget includes a $1.1 million reduction due to decreases in state and local funding.
Approved 7-0, the 2010-11 school calendar for Maybell Elementary School.
Approved, 7-0, the Moffat County School District accreditation contract.
In a special meeting Thursday, the Moffat County School Board approved, 7-0, joining 19 other districts around the state as a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the state of Colorado.
The case, called Lobato v. Colorado, challenges the current school finance system as unconstitutional because it does not provide adequate funding for public schools.
Lawyer Kathy Gebhardt appeared at the meeting to give a presentation on the case, for which she has worked pro bono for five years, and asked for the Moffat County School District to show its support as a plaintiff in Lobato v. Colorado.
"This case is important because we're seeking to enforce every school child's right to a 21st century education," Gebhardt said.
The Colorado Constitution includes a clause that requires that education be "thorough and uniform."
Gebhart and her legal team argue the current school finance system does not provide adequate funding to thoroughly and uniformly reach the standards the state legislation has created.
Before the school board voted on the issue, MCSD Superintendent Joe Petrone said he stood behind the lawsuit and supported the concept of Moffat County as a plaintiff.
"This is an opportunity for us to stand with a group of people that feel strongly about students and Colorado and the importance of the right to a uniform and thorough education," he said. "I would stand in support of being a plaintiff on this case."
Board member Sandie Johns said she hoped the district would take advantage of this opportunity to be a leader in striving for adequate public school funding.
"I think we have an obligation to continue in the same direction," she said. "To support these efforts, I think we have to."
The lawsuit was first filed in 2005, with 14 school districts in the San Luis Valley and eight parents representing other schools districts as plaintiffs.
The case was dismissed by a district court, a ruling upheld by an appellate court.
In October 2009, the Colrado Supreme Court overturned the two lower courts, saying that it is a substantive right for students in Colorado to have a thorough and uniform education.
Gebhardt said she hopes to go to trial in the summer of 2011.
She said the school finance system is broken, and needs to be fixed to support not only rural schools like in the San Luis Valley and Moffat County, but to allow every child in Colorado the same rights to education.
"We need to develop a fair system of taxation that supports a children's right to an education," Gebhardt said. She said the current reliance on local property taxes is "an inequitable system and it doesn't work very well."
She said she wanted Moffat County as a plaintiff to represent the diverse communities in Colorado and the unique struggles of
"I think it's going to help all of Colorado because we'll be able to talk about the impact of energy on a community," she said.
She said the district will face no costs to be a plaintiff and there will be no pressure on the district to give money to help pay for fees.
District finance director Mark Rydberg had no comment on the school's involvement in the case.
Petrone said he believed the fight would be worth it.
"This is just another opportunity to get things right," he said. "My sense was that was how you make change."