(‘76 Editor) I believe that Colorado taxpayers and the federal government are spending enough, if not too much, on education. I believe schooling would be more effective if competition, choice, market forces, and parental control were more prevalent. And I believe we would be a freer and better–educated society if at some point, decades from now, government no longer operated or subsidized schools in any way. Since the 1990s, in fact, I have been signatory on a vision statement to that effect.
I was summoned to a Colorado court to testify on the first of those three beliefs, and on nothing else, in connection with the Lobato lawsuit alleging that state aid to local school districts is unconstitutionally low. While on the stand, I was asked about the Separation of School and State vision statement, and confirmed my adherence to it. But I said not a word to suggest it has anything to do with who is right or wrong in the Lobato case—because it doesn’t.
For reasons known only to herself, however, the judge in this case, Sheila Rappaport, thundered against my “extreme” views in her Dec. 9 opinion holding for the plaintiffs. At the bottom of this post is an excerpt from the Dec. 11 Denver Post story, giving the details. After musing on this bizarre outburst from the bench, I would observe the following:
- Intellectually, Judge Rappaport missed the whole point of my testimony, which was to affirm the current school finance act, not to advocate change as any kind.
- Judicially, the judge dropped her impartiality in ranting at me over a personal opinion unrelated to the case before her.
- And historically, the judge seems oblivious to the massive evidence that our country’s 1800s ideal of tax–supported common schools, woven into the local community and open to all, has worked ever less well as it became ever more politicized, centralized, bureaucratized, and unionized. While it may be disputable, as of 2011, to question the article of faith that higher spending is all we need to reach educational nirvana, to do so is hardly “extreme” as Sheila Rappaport indignantly alleges.
How, I wonder, did she become so enraged at me on no provocation whatsoever? You almost have to feel sorry for someone entrusted with the vast power of this judge on this case, who manages to be so wrong, so far off base, indeed so far off the reservation—intellectually, judicially, and historically—as Ms. Rappaport has shown herself to be with this gratuitous slam at someone who came before her to testify calmly, reasonably, mildly, and altogether on point.
Here is an excerpt from the 12/11/11 Denver Post story:
Denver judge’s ruling on school funding levels blisters state’s witnesses
In declaring Colorado’s school finance system “significantly underfunded,” Denver District Judge Sheila Rappaport rejected virtually every argument presented by the state’s star witnesses in a five–week trial this year over school funding levels. Rappaport’s ruling, issued Friday, blasted the state’s level of school funding as “unconscionable” and not meeting the requirement in the Education Clause of the Colorado Constitution of a “thorough and uniform” system of public education.
Rappaport saved her fiercest criticism for former state Senate president John Andrews, a Centennial Republican, who testified for the state, calling his views on education “extreme.’
“Sen. Andrews’ vision for the future is a separation of schools and state similar to the separation of church and state in our nation,” the judge said. “He has signed a pledge calling for the end of government involvement in education. He reveres the educational system we had in this country in the 1700s because there were few government–operated schools. He fails to mention that our schools did not educate whole segments of the population, including women and people of color, at that time.”