The plaintiffs, the plaintiff-intervenors, and thirteen amici filed briefs last week asking the Colorado Supreme Court to uphold a lower court’s decision in Lobato v. State. In December 2011, the trial court held that the state’s education system failed to provide all children a free educational opportunity as guaranteed by Colorado’s constitution. The State filed its brief in July along with a handful of amici, including a coalition of business groups.
The Campaign for Education Equity at Columbia University’s Teachers College and the National Educational Access Network filed a brief responding to the arguments raised by Colorado Concern and other business groups in support of the defendants. Based on the assumption that the court’s decision required the state to allocate an additional $4 billion to education, the Concern amici claimed that the court’s order would have dire consequences for Colorado’s economy and would leave the state with no money in its budget to spend on other services.
The Equity Campaign first clarified that the court did not order a specific amount to be spent on education, but rather held that the current school funding system was unconstitutional and failed to provide a thorough and uniform system of public education. Moreover, the state would be free to enact cost-efficient reforms, to conduct a costing out study and raise revenues through various means in order to avoid the “devastation” of state programs and the economy. The brief further argued that the state’s economy, in fact, would reap tremendous benefits from improving the education system. It set forth extensive evidence that investments in education produce substantial long-term returns in the form of higher wages and tax receipts as well as lower government expenditures on Medicaid, welfare, prisons, and other services.
Additionally, the Equity Campaign brief argued that constitutional rights are not subject to modification because of financial constraints, a principle that has been upheld repeatedly by the federal and state courts.
The state’s reply brief will be filed shortly and then a date will be set for oral argument before the Colorado Supreme Court.