Pueblo City Schools joins in lawsuit challenging TABOR
Pueblo City Schools (D60) has added its name to a list of plaintiffs in a constitutional challenge to Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.
During its regular September meeting, the board of education approved a resolution that will see the district become part of the Kerr et al v. Hickenlooper civil lawsuit, filed in 2011 in U.S. District Court in Colorado.
The plaintiffs — current and past state legislators, public officials, educators, administrators and private citizens — have sued to overturn TABOR.
“The ability of Pueblo School District No. 60 to provide adequate education services to its students depends in part on its ability to convince the Colorado General Assembly to adequately fund the Public School Finance Act,” the approved resolution declares.
Additionally, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights “prevents the state and its local school districts from fulfilling their constitutional obligations to adequately fund the public schools” and has impinged on the district’s ability to provide for the education of its children “due to requirements for elections to approve any increases in the property tax mill levies.”
Prior to approval of the resolution, the board heard from David E. Scaggs, one of the attorneys working pro bono on behalf of the plaintiffs.
The constitutional challenge, Scaggs acknowledged, is “politically a little bit dicey for many people but I think we’ve come to the point, particularly when it comes to the constraints on the ability of the state adequately to fund education, that it makes sense to take a look at the viability of TABOR not only legally but practically.”
The gist of the case, Scaggs added, is to restore the authority of representative bodies, including school boards, “so that you have the tools you ought to have to manage the budgets you are responsible for.”
On a related note, board member Barb Clementi recapped a recent meeting of the Colorado School Finance Project she attended.
“The state budget projection of course is down,” Clementi said, noting that a recently released projection “shows again that we do not have sufficient funding.”
Continuing, Clementi said that differing mill levies throughout the state creates inequity among districts, “and the disparity is huge. One mill in some counties will raise $19 and in other counties, will raise over $3,200.”
Clementi said that while average personal income in the state has increased 28 percent, school funding has decreased by almost 1 percent, even though the number of students has increased statewide.
“Right now we have fewer teachers per 1,000 students in Colorado than we had in 1992,” Clementi said. “And our average teacher salary is $9,000 below the national average and $12,000 below the 1992 average.”
Overall, Clementi said the “outlook for this coming school year and school funding is not good and there will be additional cuts.”