The Dean's List

The best public high schools along the Front Range. Plus: an in-depth look at how the so-called Colorado Paradox has shortchanged our kids—and how we might finally be able to fix it.

September 2013

A New Hope

What lessons have we learned from Lobato?

In 2005, some concerned parents and school districts launched a legal battle that accused Colorado of not providing the “thorough and uniform” education mandated in the state constitution—and claimed our educational funding came up about $3 billion short. This summer, the state Supreme Court finally struck down Lobato v. Colorado. Some see the ruling as an end to a complicated battle. Others see a new beginning. Kathy Gephardt, the lead attorney for the plaintiff, is one of the optimists:
One of the takeaways of the suit is it raised awareness statewide. Five or six years ago, you would have never heard of school finance issues.
There’s still a general lack of adequate funding for every school district in the state.
Some districts have more resources than others. But every district is lacking, and in some, it’s more dramatic—the ones where there are more English language learners, poverty, or where there’s a [predominantly] Hispanic population.
Historically, there has just not been any leadership on addressing this issue.
Educators, for the most part, will do everything they can to make sure the kids aren’t paying the price for the decisions of adults.
What I hope we’ve learned is that this is going to take community involvement, engagement, and leadership. There aren’t any quick fixes.
I’ve always focused on educating people about this. I’ve always thought [the Lobato case] was a vehicle to highlight the facts.  
The gap between the haves and the have-nots is getting wider. We’ve already lost a generation of kids to the system, but I’m really hopeful we won’t lose another.
What’s at stake is our kids’ futures. One opinion from the Supreme Court doesn’t change our obligation to make sure they’re as bright as they can be.
One place where Colorado falls down badly—and will continue to fall—is special education. You don’t have to look far to see how we’re underserving those kids.
One of the truly heartwarming parts of the case has been watching Taylor Lobato go from being a very shy seventh-grader to this bright, wonderful advocate for kids in Colorado. I don’t think Taylor’s going to stop advocating.