This November, citizens of the State of Colorado voted by a 2:1 margin against a $3 billion tax increase for education proposed by Boulder State Senator Rollie Heath. The measure only passed in Boulder, Pitkin and San Miguel Counties, and there by tiny margins. Last week, Denver judge Sheila Rappaport ruled that Colorado education was being underfunded by up to $4 billion, and gave legislators a period of time to come up with a system fulfilling what she said were constitutional requirements. Though the Colorado Constitution emphasizes local control of education, the ruling itself is part of the increase in state and federal control over the issue. It is likely that the case will go to the Colorado Supreme Court.
The ruling on the Lobato case, which was filed in 2005 by a group of parents from around the state and San Louis Valley school districts, effectively nullifies the results of the only statewide ballot initiative in 2010.
The same day as Rappaport issued her ruling, the Colorado Department of Education announced the creation of a Rural Education Council, the first public meeting of which was held in Denver on Thursday, with future meetings to be held around the state. The Council was created in response to the results of a study which discussed a series of issues in rural education, including initiative fatigue, reporting and data overload and consolidation concerns. Largely, these stem from the fact that distinctions are not made between the needs and circumstances of rural and urban school districts. Neither of Boulder County’s two school districts (Boulder Valley Re-2, St. Vrain Valley Re-1J) qualify as rural districts, which are defined by their proximity to urban centers and low population density.