Colorado's school finance story touches on a number of themes familiar to students of school finance litigation: a struggle between those supporting greater resources and those favoring lower taxes; a shift in focus from equity to adequacy; and the difficulty of fostering an informed, widespread dialogue on school finance given the complexity of the funding system. At the same time, certain factors particular to Colorado – a seeming conflict in the state constitution, a number of strict constitutional amendments, and an unusually strong tradition of local control – have dramatically shaped the state's reform process. With a pending lawsuit seeking to address the state's enormous capital construction needs, Colorado appears to be at a critical juncture in its school finance debate.
Since the early 1980s, Colorado has seen three school funding lawsuits and three Public School Finance Acts (PSFAs) aimed at resolving the state's education finance conflict. Although plaintiffs have yet to score a major victory and no court orders have been issued, this legal process has had a clear influence on legislative priorities and changes made to the funding system. Legislative hearings and other localized dialogues about funding reform have also had a subtle but important impact. Even before going to trial, the latest suit, Giardino v. Colorado State Board of Education, has already raised a sense of urgency among some legislators about solving the state's school funding problems. In addition; advocates now perceive a pressing need for a broad statewide dialogue on school finance. Coupled with the pressure of litigation, this momentum for a truly informed and widespread dialogue may prove to be the missing link in Colorado's search for a funding remedy.
Education Law | Law | State and Local Government Law
Christina D. Ponsa-Kraus & Drew Dunphy,
Who's in Control? The Courts, the Legislature and the Public in Colorado's School Finance Debate,
Studies in Judicial Remedies and Public Engagement (Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc.)
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/faculty_scholarship/3525