Colorado schools can’t sue to overturn Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, judge rules

Advocates for greater school funding were dealt a blow Thursday after a U.S. District Court judge ruled they didn’t have standing in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

East High school and a crane. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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By Nicholas GarciaChalkbeat

Advocates for greater school funding were dealt a blow Thursday after a U.S. District Court judge ruled they didn’t have standing in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

In his opinion, U.S. District Judge Raymond P. Moore said a coalition of lawmakers, educators and school boards failed to convince him that they had the right to sue.

Moore’s decision is the latest development in a long-running legal challenge to the 1992 constitutional amendment that prohibits Colorado lawmakers and other elected officials from raising taxes without consent from voters.

The lawsuit, which was originally filed in 2011, was given new life late last year after five school districts joined as plaintiffs. But the addition — meant to meet a necessary standard a plaintiff must have to sue — did little to sway the judge.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, a Republican, said in a statement she hoped the judge’s decision would put an end to the lawsuit.

“The district court’s order recognizes that this suit is an improper attempt to debate a public policy question through a federal lawsuit,” she said in a statement. “We hope the plaintiffs in this case will not appeal, given that my office has won victories in the Supreme Court, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, and now the federal district court.”

A spokeswoman for the plaintiffs said they would meet next week to discuss the ruling and their options.

The ruling comes as a number of efforts to rethink how the state funds its schools are underway. Lawmakers are close to establishing a committee to propose changes. And a group of education advocates are laying the groundwork to ask voters in 2018 for more school funding.

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.