The Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the state's current system of distributing funds for public schools is constitutional, in rejection of a lawsuit filed by a Hispanic family in 2005 asking for more funding for schools in poor areas.
By a vote of 4-2 with one abstention, the court overturned previous rulings that upheld the suit.
The case of Lobato vs. the State of Colorado was initiated by a family in the San Luis Valley and was subsequently joined by school districts across the state, argues that authorities are not fulfilling their constitutional mandate to provide "thorough and uniform" education statewide.
The Supreme Court found that the current system of school financing in Colorado is in effect "rationally related" to the mandate to provide thorough and uniform funding.
The constitutional standard does not require "absolute equality in the state's provision of educational services, supplies, or expenditures," the high court said.
"While we ... recognize that the public school financing system might not provide an optimal amount of money to the public schools ... the statutory public school financing system itself is constitutional," the majority ruled.
"They've hit the fast-forward button to Colorado's race to the bottom on education," the attorney for the plaintiffs, Kathleen Gebhardt, said of the ruling. "They've affirmed that public education is for those who can pay for it and not for everyone. They paid no attention to the facts."
The suit did not ask for a specific sum of money, but indicated that the state of Colorado provides public schools with $4 billion less than necessary, while at the same time they need at least an additional $18 billion for school-building repairs and maintenance.
During a press conference Tuesday morning in Thornton, north of Denver, Taylor Lobato, whose family filed the original suit when she was a student in the town of Center, called the decision "a pat on the back" to legislators "for doing a terrible job."
"There is no accountability anymore," Lobato, who now attends the University of Denver, said. EFE