Call to Order
STUDY OF THE FINANCING OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS
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09:12 AM -- Call to Order
Representative Middleton, the chair, called the committee to order. She discussed the recent Colorado Supreme Court ruling on Lobato v. Stateand explained that she requested the Office of Legislative Legal Services (OLLS) to provide an overview of the case. She invited Nicole Myers, OLLS, to the witness table.
Ms. Myers provided background on the Lobato case, outlining the arguments of the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs alleged that the state's public school system is underfunded and allocates funds on an irrational and arbitrary basis and therefore violates the General Assembly's constitutional duty to provide a "thorough and uniform" system of free public schools throughout the state. She explained that the Court of Appeals found that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue the state. She then outlined the details of the Supreme Court ruling, which reversed the Court of Appeals ruling. Senator King asked if the decision is remanded to same court and same judge. Ms. Myers stated that she did not know if the same judge would be hearing the case. Senator Romer asked which other states have encountered adequacy lawsuits, and if any of those states have similar constitutional provisions.
Senator Romer continued his remarks, discussing the conflicting constitutional provisions affecting the state budget and financing of public schools. He commented that he hopes that the court discusses the constitutional provisions and determines whether these provisions prevent the state from providing a thorough and uniform education. He stated that he would like the General Assembly to pass a resolution recognizing the constitutional provisions that prevent the state from providing a thorough and uniform education. He raised concerns about the local share of school funding and whether the public is aware of the constitutional provisions restricting revenue and spending.
Senator King asked Legislative Council Staff to review what the range of funding has been per student per year in states with adequacy lawsuits for the period of time since Amendment 23 was passed by the voters. He stated that this information could be used to address the meaning of "thorough and uniform" in the upcoming legislative session. Representative Middleton asked if the numbers provided by Legislative Council were a statewide average figure.
Todd Herreid, Legislative Council Staff, explained that the numbers provided to Senator King include all sources of revenue for school finance: federal, state, and local. Representative Merrifield asked if it would be possible to see just the state's portion of the total figure. Senator King further requested that Mr. Herreid provide mill levy freeze information. Discussion between Senator King and Mr. Herreid on this topic ensued.
Senator Romer stated that he believes that it takes more money and time on task for at-risk students to achieve, and that meeting the needs of at-risk children drives the thorough and uniform argument. He continued his remarks on the current state of education funding in Colorado, touching on the issues facing K-12 and higher education in light of the global economy.
Senator King responded to Senator Romer's remarks and noted the importance of reviewing the data that details state, federal, and local funding in order to address adequacy issues.