Monday Media Survey – Lobato education-funding lawsuit budget-buster aided and abetted by Colorado Supreme Court
The potentially budget-busting Lobato v. Colorado education-funding lawsuit – restored to life in October 2009 by the Colorado Supreme Court after having been rejected as non-justiciable by two lower courts – enters its second week of trial court hearings today.
Numerous analysts and commentators have noted that if the Lobato lawsuit succeeds, it will negatively impact Colorado’s schools and end up hurting – not helping – Colorado’s school-age children. Shortly before the lawsuit went to trial last Monday, Colorado’s Democrat Governor John Hickenlooper and Republican Attorney General John Suthers took the unusual step of issuing a joint statement opposing the lawsuit, “arguing that it could cost the state billions of dollars if it loses in court.”
Over the weekend, Colorado’s leading newspapers weighed in further on the issue.
Sunday’s Denver Post (“Future uncertain if plaintiffs win education-funding Lobato case“) highlighted the uncertainty around just how deeply the lawsuit could affect Colorado’s budget if successful, calling it “uncharted territory.” The Post article did note, however:
In other states where such school-funding “adequacy” suits have prevailed, court decisions have forced greater spending on schools. (Emphasis added)
The Pueblo Chieftain’s Sunday editorial, “Billions More,” was less timorous in its conclusions:
HERE WE are trying to dig ourselves out of the Great Recession, with Colorado’s state budget barely balanced with scads of gimmicks, and now a group is seeking a court order for the state to spend umpteen billions more on public schools.
The article further noted the dubious constitutional grounds for the lawsuit:
Attorney General John Suthers argues – correctly, we believe – that discretion in school funding constitutionally rests with voters and lawmakers, not the courts. He said a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs could cost the state up to $4 billion annually.
Worse, the article notes, the plaintiffs have also asked for massive – and immediate – increases in school construction:
Moreover, because the lawsuit asks for massive new school construction, the suit could cost the state an additional $18 billion. (Emphasis added)
Bottom Line: the lawsuit seeks money the state simply does not have, based on extremely tenuous grounds (an expository phrase in the state Constitution calling for “thorough and uniform” education), and is improperly seeking to achieve these goals via the courts, not through the legislative branch where such issues are properly decided.
The issue of educational funding is NOT one for the courts, but rather for the legislature and/or local school boards. The Lobato lawsuit is a fiscal, legal, and political disaster in the making.
Clear The Bench Colorado will, with your support, continue to promote transparency and accountability in the Colorado judiciary, informing the public to increase awareness of the substantial public policy implications of an unrestrained activism and political agendas in the courts. We will continue to work to educate voters and provide information of relevance related to the judicial branch, and to provide useful and substantive evaluations of judicial performance.
Ultimately, though – it’s worth the effort.