By Valerie Richardson-The Washington Times
DENVER â€” That sound you donâ€™t hear is Colorado lawmakers holding their breath over a court case that could upend the cash-strapped stateâ€™s budget and tax structure.
Denver District CourtÂ JudgeÂ Sheila RappaportÂ ruled inÂ LobatoÂ v. Colorado that the stateâ€™s funding system fails to provide the â€œthorough and uniformâ€ education required by the constitution. She called the system â€œsignificantly underfunded,â€ even though Colorado now spends $3.2 billion, or about 45 percent of the $7 billion annual state budget, on K-12 education.
â€œThere is not enough money in the system to permit school districts across the state to properly implement standards-based education and to meet the requirements of state law and regulation,â€ JudgeÂ RappaportÂ wrote in her Dec. 9 opinion. â€œThere is not one school district that is sufficiently funded. This is an obvious hallmark of an irrational system.â€
How much would it take to fund the state education system? The judge declined to name a dollar figure, but in her 189-page decision she cited a study introduced by the plaintiffs that called for an additional $2 billion to $4 billion per year.
That would require the state to devote 89 percent of the general fund to K-12 education, according to estimates by the attorney generalâ€™s office. The judge stayed her own ruling until the end of the 2012 legislative session, expected next summer.
â€œI suppose you could basically shut down every other discretionary thing in the state budget,â€ saidÂ Independence InstituteÂ research directorÂ David KopelÂ on Fridayâ€™s edition of â€œColorado Inside Outâ€ onÂ Colorado Public Television.
â€œWe could get rid of higher education, get rid of theÂ Colorado stateÂ patrol, get rid of every social service program we have in order to throw money into this sinkhole that JudgeÂ RappaportÂ pretends is mandatory under the constitution,â€ he said.
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