Montessori group seeks summary judgment | SteamboatToday.com

Montessori group seeks summary judgment

Brent Boyer

Steamboat Springs Montessori filed a motion Wednesday in Denver District Court seeking summary judgment in its lawsuit against the Steamboat Springs School District.

The motion asks the court to forgo a trial and rule in the Montessori group’s favor based on what the group calls the undisputable facts of the case.

“It’s an efficient way of resolving the case,” Steamboat Springs Montessori attorney Bill Bethke said Wednesday. “It’s one that focuses on the principal issues.”

The Steamboat Springs School District likely will oppose the motion, attorney Chris Gdowski said.

“Without looking at the motion, I can’t say for certain how the district will respond,” Gdowski said. “I’m certain we’ll oppose it. Whether we’ll go further than opposing it and submit our own motion for summary judgment, I just don’t know.”

The lawsuit, filed in July, seeks to force the school district to approve an application for a Montessori charter school. Last school year, the School Board twice denied the Montessori application, and the State Board of Education twice overruled the School Board. The School Board argued the State Board’s order to approve the application is an unfunded mandate, and therefore not legal.

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The Steamboat Springs School District’s stance has drawn statewide attention for its challenge to the Colorado Charter Schools Act.

The motion filed Wednesday argues that Steamboat Springs Montessori is entitled to judgment in the suit because the unfunded mandate statute cited by the district is unconstitutional and that any dispute between the unfunded mandate law and the Charter Schools Act must be resolved in favor of the Charter Schools Act, which was adopted later.

The motion also argues that the Charter Schools Act does not conflict with the unfunded mandate statute.

Bethke said the State Board of Education is expected to file an amicus curiae or friend of the court brief showing the state paid $949,650 to the school district during the 2002-03 school year. The most the charter school will cost the district in its first year of operation is $208,926, or 22 percent of the money given to the district by the state, according to the motion.

“It is mysterious how this could be considered any form of unfunded mandate,” the motion reads.

The summary judgment motion was filed in Denver District Court, though Denver District Judge Shelley Gilman recently ruled in favor of the school district’s request to change the venue to Routt County. Bethke said all of the court’s paperwork received in the suit would be transferred to Routt County Court.

The change of venue has made unclear the district’s timeline to respond to Wednesday’s Montessori motion, Gdowski said.

Approving a charter school application does not guarantee a charter school will open. A contract must still be negotiated between a charter school and a district.

— To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com