In legal papers filed Friday, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers denied the claims of plaintiffs in the Lobato v. State school funding case and asked that the suit be dismissed.

In standard legal language, the answer rejects most of the plaintiffs’ claims or terms them legal conclusions that don’t require an answer. The AG’s filing claims the plaintiffs lack standing to bring the case, seek an unconstitutional remedy and that their claims violate the separation of powers. It asks that the court rule in the state’s favor.

The Lobato case started in 2005 when a group of parents from eight school districts across the state and 14 school districts in the San Luis Valley sued the state, claiming that Colorado’s school finance system violates the state constitution’s requirement for a “thorough and uniform” public education system.

In March 2006 Denver District Judge Michael Martinez ruled against the plaintiffs, concluding the current system meets the requirements of Amendment 23, isn’t subject to court review and that the school districts didn’t have standing to sue.

A Colorado Court of Appeals panel upheld the district court decision in January 2008.

On Oct. 19, 2009, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled 4-3 to revive the lawsuit, sending it back to the trial court.

The plaintiffs filed their amended complaint March 1. As with the original suit, the core of the plaintiffs’ argument is that Colorado public schools are so under-funded that students are denied an adequate education, in violation of that state constitutional mandate of a “thorough and uniform” system. The suit also claims the current system violates the constitutional local control rights of school boards.

The amended complaint also raises the touchy issue of which parts of the constitution have precedence over others. It argues that the state constitutional requirement for “a thorough and uniform system of free public schools” creates a “substantive” right to which “procedural amendments” such as TABOR “must yield.”

The case is in Denver District Court.

You be the judge

Education News Colorado story about the plaintiffs’ complaint, with links to documents and other information