Colorado is not constitutionally required to increase education funding, the state supreme court ruled last week. The 4-2 decision, in Lobato v. Colorado, reverses a 2011 lower-court ruling in favor of the parents and districts that brought the lawsuit.
The high court upheld the state’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, a law requiring that voters approve any state tax increases. That law will come into play relatively soon, as voters consider a roughly $1 billion tax increase designed to buttress a new K-12 funding system.
In the ruling, the justices in the majority held that in the current financing system for public education, school districts have enough power over raising revenues in their own communities to succeed despite limited resources.
In a dissent, Chief Justice Michael Bender wrote that the “reality of public education in Colorado"—including the adoption of new academic standards and an increase in English-language learners—shows that the significant drop in state K-12 funding over the past four decades, relative to the national average, is badly out of step with what the public education system needs.
The decision appears to remove a potential hurdle for an overhaul of the funding system that Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law this year. The weighted-funding system would provide more aid to less wealthy districts while instituting a new method for calculating daily attendance that backers say is more accurate. The plan is intended to give more support to districts with high numbers of English-language learners and low-income students.
A version of this article appeared in the June 05, 2013 edition of Education Week as Colorado Court Upholds K-12 Funding System