The Colorado Lawyers Committee has a long history of working to improve educational opportunities for children in Colorado. Task Force volunteers closely monitor developments in Colorado’s state budget crisis to assure adequate funding for Colorado’s schools. The Task Force is also examining educational issues to determine if legal solutions might improve education for Colorado’s children. Anyone interested in K-12 education is invited to participate. John Tatlock (The Harris Law Firm P.C.) and Terry Miller (Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP) co-chair this Task Force. To volunteer for the Education Task Force, complete the form below.
Since 2009, members of the Education Task Force have focused on several issues:
(1) The Re-segregation of Denver Public Schools.
Most recently, the Task Force has been exploring the causes and solutions for the apparent re-segregation of Denver Public Schools.
(2) School Finance.
State Demand for Local Funds. Volunteers from the Education Task Force are working with representatives from four school districts regarding the State’s demands for money. There are a number of small school districts in Colorado which fund their schools entirely through local property taxes. The State has required these small districts to increase their mill levies without voter approval and write checks to the state for their share of state education funding. Some of these school districts have chosen to hold the collected funds in escrow, alleging the required payment to the state is invalid. Task Force members have agreed to represent the districts if the State files a lawsuit to enforce its demands for the money.
Dwyer v. Colorado. This suit, filed in 2014, alleged that the State’s $1 billion per year cuts to school funding since 2010 are a violation of Amendment 23 to the Colorado Constitution. Amendment 23 was passed by voters in 2000 to reverse a decade of budget cuts experienced by Colorado school districts throughout the 1990s. The state increased educational funding until 2010, but then reinterpreted Amendment 23 to allow cuts of almost $1 billion per year to the education budget. In February 2015, after the district court rejected the State’s motion to dismiss, the Colorado Supreme Court accepted the case for review. Disappointingly, in a 4-3 decision the Court ruled that the State’s interpretation of Amendment 23 is lawful. Our many thanks to Tim Macdonald (Arnold & Porter LLP), Sean Connelly (Reilly Pozner LLP), Kathy Gebhardt (Kathleen J. Gebhardt, L.L.C.), Nate Hake (Arnold & Porter LLP), Zhonette Brown (Bryan Cave LLP), and Terry Miller (Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP) for their tireless efforts to help Colorado’s kids.
Lobato v. Colorado. In 2005, a group of lawyers volunteered to assist with Lobato v. Colorado, a case which challenged Colorado’s school financing system to provide a ‘thorough and uniform’ system of public education, as mandated by the State constitution. In 2011, more than 70 volunteers from 12 different law firms assisted in the case, which included a successful 5-week trial in Denver District Court; the team donated approximately 14,000 hours to assist in discovery, depositions, trial preparation and trial. The State appealed the decision and the Lobato team filed a response, along with several amici briefs on both sides of the matter. The Colorado Supreme Court heard oral arguments on March 7, 2013. In a 4-2 vote, the Court reversed the trial court decision, holding that Colorado’s school finance system is rationally related to the ‘thorough and uniform’ standard of the state Constitution despite not “provid[ing] an optimal amount of money to the public schools.” Click here to read the opinion. Regardless of the outcome of this long battle, we sincerely thank all of the volunteers who tirelessly worked on this case for so many years–their work was critical in bringing the state of education to the attention of so many.