Schools file lawsuit against state

Groups say funding violates constitution

The Mancos School District, along with eight other groups, filed a lawsuit against the state in Denver District Court on Friday over budget cuts that they claim were a constitutional violation.

"It's in motion, we'll see what happens," Superintendent Brian Hanson told the school board Monday night.

The lawsuit claims the state violated Colorado Amendment 23 by cutting funding to state education every year from 2009 to 2013. The voter-approved Amendment 23, passed in 2000, requires the state to increase funding for schools by the rate of inflation every year following 2010.

"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," the lawsuit states.

When the Mancos district voted to join the lawsuit in March, the board members hoped the lawsuit would encourage the members of the state legislature to increase funding to the levels before cuts that happened during the recession.

Each year since the recession, the state has determined a flat figure to designate for school funding and then reduced funding to that level by cutting each district by the same percentage, according to Colorado Department of Education documents.

The state reduced the Mancos district's funding reduced by $67,000 in December because of this deduction, known as "the negative factor."

The state did increase the funding statewide for education by $110 million at the end of the legislative session. But districts across the state estimate the cuts since 2009 total $1 billion

Timothy Macdonald and Kathy Gebhardt, the executive director of Children's Voices, are the lawyers representing the district and other groups.

The only cost that the school board agreed to pay for during the suit was the attorneys' travel costs should the board wish to visit with the attorneys filing the suit in person.

The other groups that joined the lawsuit are Colorado Rural Schools, East Central Board of Cooperative Educational Services, Colorado PTA, Boulder Valley School District, Colorado Springs School District 11, Holyoke School District and Plateau Valley School District 50. A handful of parents have also joined the lawsuit.

It is expected that the state will move to have the case dismissed within the next 30 days. But it is likely the case will move forward despite the motion to dismiss it, Hanson said.