First grade students practice reading in Spanish in their biliteracy classroom at Dupont Elementary School in Adams 14.
First grade students practice reading in Spanish in their biliteracy classroom at Dupont Elementary School in Adams 14.

A Denver judge on Friday dismissed two union lawsuits that challenged the state’s orders to Adams 14 and Pueblo school districts requiring them to hire an outside manager.

David H. Goldberg, a Denver district court judge, ruled that the union failed to establish how the order had caused injury and so lacked grounds to sue.

In the case of Adams 14, the State Board of Education in November ordered the district to hand over much of its authority to an external management company, the first district in the state forced to do so. The district has long struggled to raise student achievement.

In the case of Pueblo, the State Board had ordered the district to hand over management of two of its lowest performing schools. The district then closed one of the schools and signed a contract with a management company for one school.

In both cases, a Florida-based for-profit company, MGT Consulting, has taken over that role. In each case, the local teachers union sued the state and claimed the orders violated the state constitution, which grants local school boards the authority to make most decisions for their districts.

The cases were combined and presented to a judge in Denver in August.

In his ruling, the judge stated, “local boards of education are permitted to delegate some tasks.” In reviewing whether Colorado’s accountability law is unconstitutional because it allows the state board to order external management, Goldberg wrote, “the court declines to define the scope of the State Board’s authority.”

Union leaders did not respond to a request for comment.

“When the General Assembly passed the Education Accountability Act, the intent was to keep the focus on kids and to establish a process for eliminating the persistent gaps in student achievement,” the state’s Education Commissioner Katy Anthes said in a released statement. “We are pleased that the court acknowledged the state board’s actions were aligned with the statue, which sets clear requirements for the state’s intervention for persistently struggling schools. We are pleased that the focus can now solely be on improving outcomes for kids.”

     

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

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