On December 9th Judge Sheila Rappaport ruled in favor of the Lobato Trial plaintiffs, finding that Colorado is not complying with the constitutional right of every child to a "thorough and uniform system of free public schools."
The Lobato case has been about whether the state of Colorado is providing sufficient funding “establish and maintain a thorough and uniform system of free public schools throughout the state.” In 2009, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that this is an enforceable mandate, and that courts have the authority to review Colorado’s school finance system to determine whether it meets this constitutional standard. An overview of the case is here.
The judge's ruling is 183 pages long. You can find it here. It is long but is really worth looking at because (in spite of its length) it offers something of a summary of the whole education system in Colorado and all the forces that come to bear on education funding.
State and local funding for public education is provided through the Public School Finance Act (PSFA). In school year 2010-11, PSFA funding totaled approximately $5.4 billion. In addition to PSFA total program funding, the Colorado school finance system provides certain state funding for programs designed to serve particular groups of students or particular student needs through “categorical” programs (categorical programs include such as special education, English language proficiency, transportation, and vocational education, as well as gifted and talented). In 2010-11, state funding for all categorical programs totaled $231 million, somewhat less than 5% of the total PSFA funding. The GT categorical funding in Colorado was $9.1 million of that $231.7 million of categorical monies.
Although mentioned elsewhere in the document, Gifted and Talented education in Colorado is specifically addressed in the ruling on pages 89-98, beginning with the background: "Gifted and talented (GT) education is the instruction of students whose abilities, exceptionalities, and potential are so outstanding that they require special provisions within the public K-12 system, such as different instruction, programming, and attention to their social and emotional needs." There was testimony regarding GT student achievement, program funding, personnel and state support.
In the conclusion the judge notes: "The impact of irrational and inadequate funding is not, however, limited to rural and urban poverty School Districts. The Court finds that all School Districts are unable to provide the early childhood and kindergarten programs that are critical to student achievement. All School Districts are unable to provide the classroom time, professional training, and instructional interventions that are critical to meet the expectations of CAP4K, the Education Accountability Act, and SB 10-91. All School Districts are unable to provide the classroom time, professional training, and interventions critical to the education of under-served student populations, including students at-risk of academic failure, non-English speaking students, students with disabilities, students of minority racial and ethnic heritages, students of low-income families, and gifted and talented students. All School Districts lack the funding necessary to meet the increased expectations of the current revisions to standards-based education, and particularly CAP4K, the Education Accountability Act, and SB 191."