Colorado Sued Over Massive School Budget Cuts

      DENVER (CN) - Parents and school districts sued Colorado, claiming the state created an illegal loophole so it could cut $1 billion a year from public schools.
     Lead plaintiff Lindi Dwyer, joined by the Colorado Rural Schools Caucus, the Colorado PTA and five school districts sued the state, its Commissioner of Education Robert Hammond and Governor John Hickenlooper on Friday in Denver County Court.
     The plaintiffs claim the state violated an amendment of the state constitution which states that government officials cannot cut the education budget, but must increase the budget annually to adjust for inflation.
     "In November 2000, the people of Colorado voted in favor of this state's future by amending our constitution to prioritize education over competing budgetary demands," the complaint states. This amendment ('Amendment 23'), now enshrined as article IX, section 17 of the Colorado Constitution, is the subject of this lawsuit. Plaintiffs must bring this lawsuit because the General Assembly, after honoring Amendment 23 for this century's first decade, reversed course in 2010 when it began cutting almost $1 billion annually from education funding.
     "Amendment 23 requires annual minimum increases in education funding, with the goal of returning funding to 1988 levels and then keeping pace with inflation. The people deemed these constraints necessary because steadily declining education funding was failing to provide Colorado students the resources necessary to compete in the new millennium. Had the General Assembly stayed the 2000-2010 course by continuing to comply with Amendment 23, education funding would have been restored to 1988 levels by 2011."
     The families claim the Legislature ducked the constitutional requirement by writing a provision in 2010 within the Public School Finance Act. The Act redefines how much a school district should get and, in turn, caused the original budget to be slashed by $1 billion each year.
     The plaintiffs seek declaratory judgment that the new budge method unconstitutional.
     They are represented by Timothy MacDonald, with Arnold & Porter, in Denver.
     Joining as plaintiffs are the Boulder Valley School District, Colorado Springs School District No. 11, Mancos School District, Holyoke School District, and Plateau Valley School District 50.