DENVER Cortez Middle School teacher Justine Bayles was helping a colleague erase dirty words out of social studies textbooks when the page flopped open to a picture of the Twin Towers, still standing in New York City. Someone had drawn an airplane crashing into them.
Some of my students have taken the liberty of updating the book, the teacher told Bayles.
Bayles told the story Wednesday on the witness stand during the Lobato school finance trial. The plaintiffs, who include Montezuma-Cortez school district, want the courts to declare that Colorado is violating its own constitution by depriving students of a quality education a verdict that could require billions of dollars more to be spent on schools.
Bayles and fellow Cortez teacher Matt Keefauver were the first two teachers to take the stand, and their testimony provided the most dramatic moments yet in the trial, now in its second week.
Both teachers wept as they described their students falling behind as the schools lack the resources and staff to help them.
Textbooks are outdated, and Bayles cant assign science homework because there arent enough books to go around, she said.
Keefauver, a fourth-grade teacher at Kemper Elementary School, pays for field trips out of his own pocket. He also buys basic supplies such as paper and pencils.
My kids deserve the same opportunities as any kids in the state of Colorado, any kids in the country, Keefauver said. Its unfair that they have to do without some of the things I had as a student growing up, things that we even had five, six or seven years ago.
In the lawsuit, Lobato v. State of Colorado, parents and school districts from across the state accuse the Legislature of not providing enough money to pay for a thorough and uniform education, as the constitution requires.
Denver District Judge Sheila Rappaport will have to decide what thorough and uniform means and whether the plaintiffs are right. The trial is expected to last through early September.
The defense team from the attorney generals office declined to cross-examine either teacher.
In opening arguments, defense lawyers argued that the state does all it can for schools, and money alone will not improve the lot of students.