Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs School Board said Monday it would not follow the Colorado Board of Education's mandate to approve a Montessori charter school application.
In a resolution read at Monday night's board meeting, the School Board said Colorado law stipulates new state mandates, even those imposed by state agencies, are optional for school districts unless the state provides the money to fund them.
"Our resolution simply says that, according to that statute, we have chosen to implement our option not to have to implement the mandate," School Board President Paul Fisher said.
The resolution was not a notice of legal action, Fisher said.
But Steamboat Springs Montessori Steering Committee Chair Jody Patten said the decision goes much further than refusing to approve the charter school's application.
"I am not a lawyer, but I find it hard to believe that the state Board of Education and legislature and courts of law in this state will view the Charter (Schools) Act as optional," Patten said. "We will certainly pursue this. We are not sure at this point what form that will be, but we believe we have the support at the state level to make this school a reality."
The local Montessori Steering Committee does have the financial support of the Colorado League of Charter Schools, which would help cover legal expenses, Patten said.
"This is a much bigger thing than just denying us," Steering Committee Board Member David Paterson said. "They are questioning the validity of the charter law. I don't know if they want to go there."
On April 9, the state board ordered the local board to approve the Steamboat Springs Montessori Charter School for a second time.
"The community, the tax payers, have been overwhelmingly in favor of the actions the board has taken to this point," School Board Member Paula Stephenson said.
The school district has maintained that a Montessori charter school, in its first year of operation, would take a least $175,000 from other district programs. In its resolution, the School Board stated neither the state Board of Education or the Colorado Legislature had reimbursed the district for the added cost of a charter school.
And under state law, the local board said, new state mandates are optional unless "state provides additional moneys to reimburse schools for the costs of such mandates."
Before Monday's decision, the steering committee had been waiting to begin contract negotiations with the district. A week ago, with contract negotiations non-existent, the committee told parents interested in Montessori that they should make other plans for the fall.