19-year-old takes on state, gets day in court

6:32 PM, Aug 3, 2011   |    comments
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"It feels good. And, this is important having all this start. That discussion needs to be had and I like the way things are going right now," she said.

Lobato is from Center, Colo., a small town in the middle of the San Luis Valley. In 2006, she and her family filed suit against the State of Colorado, claiming the school finance system is violating the Colorado Constitution.

"Center is a small, rural community," Lobato said.

Lobato is part of a ranching family in a ranching town, but her fight could change Colorado schools forever.

"For my sister, because she deserves a better education than I got, and for all the other students in Center and the state, I just believe that they deserve an adequate education and they're not getting it," she said.

She believes the state is violating the law, underfunding schools.

"There's not enough books for everybody to have one, so we would go into class, take a book off the shelf, do our studies, put it back at the end of the day," Lobato said.

Lobato and her attorneys say the state should pump billions more into education, according to the Colorado Constitution.

"This is bigger than me, bigger than my family. It's a part of just Colorado in general, all the students in the state getting a decent education," she said.

Lobato, now a college sophomore, is taking on the state. She's taking on the attorney general and the governor, who both felt compelled to hold a news conference last week before the civil trial even started.

"If we lost this decision and suddenly had to find even $2 billion, the consequences to our prison system, to our higher education system, to our health care system would be, I think would be devastating," Gov. John Hickenlooper said last Thursday.

They admit they're afraid of the impacts of this case if the plaintiffs eventually win.

"It's been a long time coming. Five years since my parents and I started this conversation and it's good to be here, to finally be able to get out there and tell my story and make a difference 'cause this is important," Lobato said. 

The state obviously believes it is in full compliance with the Colorado Constitution. After the five week trial is over, it is widely believed that whatever decision is made will be appealed, and could eventually end up in the State Supreme Court.

In the meantime, Lobato will continue her studies with a double major at the University of Denver.

If the plaintiffs eventually win, the court would not likely not issue a specific order for legislators to follow. Instead, the legislature would be mandated to come up on their own with a new school finance plan.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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