Updated 1:25 p.m. – Gov. John Hickenlooper announced this morning that the state will appeal a district judge’s ruling in the Lobato v. State school funding lawsuit.
But the State Board of Education, after an hour-long executive session over the phone, adjourned without taking a vote on an appeal and will meet again Dec. 27.
In a prepared statement, the governor said, “A final resolution of the constitutional and legal issues involved in the case require an appeal to the Colorado Supreme Court.
“The judge’s decision provided little practical guidance on how the state should fund a ‘thorough and uniform’ system of public education. Moreover, while the judge focused on the inadequacy of state funding, she did not reconcile this issue with other very relevant provisions of the Constitution, including the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, the Gallagher Amendment and Amendment 23.
“There are more appropriate venues for a vigorous and informed public debate about the state’s spending priorities. We look forward to a swift decision in this case so the people of Colorado and their elected representatives can participate in the school funding conversation.”
The state board met for about an hour in a closed session also attended by education Commissioner Robert Hammond, board aide Carey Markel and Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Fero. Markel worked on the case for the AG’s office before recently taking her staff position with the board.
The board returned to public session just long enough for chair Bob Schaffer, R-4th District, to announce another meeting on Dec. 27 and for members to vote to adjourn.
Some observers had predicted a 4-3 split on the board in favor of an appeal. However, the seven-member group (four Republicans and three Democrats) does have a past pattern of seeking unanimity on major issues.
An appeal may keep the case in the courts for perhaps a year, according to some observers. Appeal also could take the legislature off the hook in 2012 for responding to the district court’s ruling that the state’s school funding system doesn’t meet constitutional requirements and that the state needs to devise a new system.
The named defendants in the case are the state, Hickenlooper, the state board and education Commissioner Robert Hammond, an employee of the board.
Estimates put full compliance with the Lobato ruling at $2 to $4 billion a year more than the $5.2 billion a year the state and districts currently spend on basic school operations.
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