Colorado Lawmakers Consider Reforms to School Funding Formula


With the Colorado Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments on a major school funding lawsuit on March 7, 2013, Lobato v. State, legislators are considering major changes to the state’s School Finance Act. State Senator Mike Johnston expects to introduce a bill to revise the funding formula that would be contingent on voters approving a ballot initiative in November to raise taxes. The bill could call for as much as a $1 billion increase and, if it passes, would be the first change to the law in eighteen years.

In December 2011, a district court judge sided with plaintiffs in finding the state’s school funding system unconstitutional. Judge Sheila Rappaport held that the funding levels were “now and have since inception been completely disconnected from the real, knowable funding needs of a thorough and uniform system of public education.” She ordered the state to design, fund, and implement a new funding system that would ensure sufficient school funds. Since the district court decision, the state has filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court, as well as several amicus briefs, and the plaintiffs have also submitted their replies. Colorado litigation history.

In describing his reform initiative, Senator Johnston says, “what we’ve been trying to figure out is what it would take to build a 21st-century education system that has both adequacy and equity as the driving force. What we’ve found is that the formula now seems to be quite out of whack with actual needs.”

February 11, 2013

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