This needs to happen where the Federal and State governments are demanding more than the state coffers, cities, school districts or teachers can provide.
“Plaintiffs do not argue that resources equal student achievement. There is no guarantee. But not funding schools guarantees failure.”
Kenzo Kawanabe, plaintiffs’ attorney in closing.
By Lisa Weil, Policy Director, Great Education Colorado.
This political cartoon sums up the Lobato case: the state is failing its constitutional duty to provide a “thorough and uniform system of free public schools” because there is no rational connection between the standards and mandates the legislature has created on one hand, and the resources provided on the other.
Six years ago a group of parents and school districts decided that “enough was enough.” With educational opportunities and resources shrinking, state mandates increasing, and the educational needs of children growing, they filed the Lobato lawsuit.
Together, these plaintiffs challenged Colorado’s school finance system, arguing that it does not provide all Colorado students with access to a “thorough and uniform system of free public schools”, as required by the Colorado constitution. Their request is simple; they seek a court order declaring that the current system does not meet that constitutional standard and that the General Assembly must bring the system into compliance.
When we first wrote to you about the Lobato case six weeks ago, it was just before the case finally went to trial. Five weeks, eighty witnesses and almost 200 hours of testimony later, the case is now in the hands of Judge Sheila Rappaport.
What the Judge heard was evidence of how children in Colorado are being harmed by a finance system that has no connection to the system of requirements and mandates that the state has created for schools, districts and students.
She heard from students who found themselves unprepared when they got to college, parents whose children with special needs aren’t getting the services they need, superintendents who have to make heart-wrenching budget decisions (e.g., reduce graduation requirements or increase elementary class size), and teachers who are holding three jobs in order to afford supplies for their classrooms.
And, notably, she heard testimony — from both the plaintiffs and defendants — that well-targeted resources are critical for academic achievement.
We don’t know when the Judge will rule. We do know that when she does — no matter what she does — public education supporters will play a key role in making sure that our legislators take decisive action to improve the unacceptable conditions described in the courtroom.
As soon as we hear, we’ll let you know what Judge Rappaport decided. And, as always, we’ll provide you with easy ways to let the legislature know you agree that “enough is enough.”
Colorado has made great progress in setting higher standards for schools, teachers and students, and mandating improvements in individual learning for children who learn differently, in different languages, and with special needs and talents.
The Lobato case stands up for the constitutional principle that matching resources with those mandates isn’t just a good idea. It’s the law.
Thank you for taking the time to learn about the Lobato case and for all you do for Colorado’s kids, schools, colleges and universities.
The Labato Case in 140 Characters or Less
To keep public education supporters and the media apprised of critical testimony in the Lobatotrial, observers have been “live-tweeting” from the courtroom, sending out the testimony that most impresses them.
Those who have been monitoring the Lobato case Twitter feed have benefited from a steady stream of key facts and observations. In case you missed it, here’s just a sampling of tweets:
Matt Keefauver, teacher, Cortez School District
Cortez teacher buys lunches for his students who can’t afford to buy their own
Cortez teacher: this yr’s school supply list includes copy paper, only 5 of 22 students’ parents able to afford
Cortez Teacher: has 3 part time jobs (including side business) so he can pay for basic supplies, field trips
Justine Bayles, science teacher, Cortez School District
Bayles: science is learned through doing experiments, yet lack $ to buy supplies
Bayles: lack of funds or technology = concern students won’t be college/workforce ready
Buck Stroh, Superintendent, Creede District
Stroh: 1st thing cut was industrial arts b/c had to protect core subjects. Only 1 content teacher per subject, 6th-12th
Stroh: “If we could add even 1/2-time math teacher would make huge difference.” Math teacher sometimes teaches 2 subjects @ same time.
Stroh narrates slide show: preschool building”mothballed” because couldn’t afford to keep open.
Ty Ryland, President, Sierra Grande School District
Ryland: grants look good at beginning, but when it ends, virtually impossible to sustain program
John Barry, Superintendent, Aurora
Barry: students who join military don’t meet min qualifications = “dire consequences” to national security
Barry: need more assured and sustainable avenues of funding to do what’s right for students
Barry: Aurora not able to replicate successes in schools quickly b/c of cuts
Barry: Aurora making “incremental” progress but still “leaving students behind”
Asked if CO provides ‘thorough & uniform’ education, Barry says, “I know it when I see it, & I’m not seeing it.”
Gerald Keefe, Superintendent, Kit Carson
Keefe: pre-k sets students up for “future success” yet Kit Carson offers ½ day, 1 time per week
Keefe: district spans 900 sq mi, transportation always concern; state $ not enough to cover cost
Shila Adolf, Superintendent/Principal Bethune
Adolf: achievement gap closing but only bc top trajectory is coming down, instead of bottom moving up
Adolf: We lack resources to fully fund any complete plan, whether it is advanced program or ELL (English Language Learners)
Adolf: 89% of Bethune grads drop out of college after the first year b/c “not prepared”
Dan Maas, Chief Information Officer, Littleton Public Schools
Maas: internet is 100x faster in Littleton than many rural districts
Maas: current state of broadband in rural CO inadequate to meet new standards
Maas: CO school districts don’t have adequate numbers of computers to address tech. standards require
Kevin Edgar, Superintendent, Sanford
Edgar testimony: recent student told him she was assigned same physics text he used in high school.
Edgar testimony: “Most textbooks we have don’t line up with State standards.”
Edgar testimony: growth gaps are widening in Sanford
Cindy Stevenson, Superintendent, Jeffco Schools
Stevenson: Bc of resource issues, Jeffco had to reduce graduation reqs so they could layoff less teachers in earlier grades.
Stevenson: do you agree with statement money doesn’t matter? A: No. More $ in the right places makes a diff.
Taylor Lobato, plaintiff from Center
Lobato testimony: Center doesn’t offer AP/IB classes
Lobato testimony: didn’t receive an adequate education in Center, not prepared for college
Lobato: In this lawsuit, “for my sister, bc she deserves a better education than I got, and for all students in the state.”
Lobato testimony: no summer school, few extra-curriculars, limited course offerings in Center
Monte Moses, former Cherry Creek Superintendent, 2007 National Super of the Year
Moses: “there isn’t enough money to do the basics of reform in a good way”
Glenn Gufstason, CFO, Colorado Springs D-11
Gustafson: D-11 struggles w/ maintenance costs, eliminated summer program, reduced tutoring.
George Welsh, Superintendent, Center Schools
Welsh: can’t provide pre-school, many voc. ed. classes gone, library only open part-time.
Welsh: we buy used textbooks from Amazon; library has many out-dated books that should be scrapped
The Lobato case: 21st century communications. 21st century expectations. 20th century resources.
And this is not an isolated situation. This is happening throughout the country where higher expectations are demanded with little to no resources provided.
And the answer for these ed reformers? Fire the teachers!