University of Denver senior Taylor Lobato is making headlines in and out of class. She received the “Student of the Year” award from the department of media, film and journalism studies and is enrolled in a dual degree program for which she’ll attain bachelor’s degrees in strategic communication and public policy and a master’s degree in public policy when she graduates in June.
Outside of class, Lobato was the named plaintiff in the high-profile case Lobato vs. State of Colorado. The lawsuit — filed in 2005 by a group of parents from around Colorado and school districts from the San Luis Valley — challenges the adequacy of public education funding in Colorado.
Lobato, who was in eighth grade when the lawsuit was first filed, was part of a team seeking a declaration by the court that the current system of school finance established and maintained by the state legislature is not thorough and uniform, thus violating the Colorado Constitution and the substantive rights of local students. In December 2011, a Denver District judge agreed with the Lobato team that school funding in the state is inadequate, but the Colorado Supreme Court reversed that judgment last year.
“Right now, there are other children out there who don’t have people to help them attain a proper education. They need the state to do that because that’s what the state has guaranteed,” Lobato says. “We have a long way to go. It won’t be a win until the legislators provide an education system that provides for every single student in this state.”
A graduate of Center High School in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, Lobato felt academically behind as a freshman relative to her new classmates at DU. Her experiences inspired her to speak up for the rights of Colorado’s underserved public school students.
She credits the faculty at DU for guiding and mentoring her.
“My freshman year I might not have guessed I would ultimately receive the ‘Student of the Year’ award,” she says. “The faculty have been exceptional mentors, and I cannot thank them enough for all they have done for me. I am humbled and honored to receive the award.”
Lobato’s nascent lobbying efforts have been applauded by many people, including her public policy classmates.
“People are interested in the case, which is great because no matter what side of the argument they are on, it always leads to a big discussion,” says Lobato, who last summer was honored as a champion of education with the Colorado Association of School Executives’ CASEY award.
Lobato’s involvement in the case has influenced her career goals. She aims to combine her strategic communication and public policy degrees to do advocacy work by way of public relations, governmental affairs, policy writing or policy researching.
“The credit for the case really lies with the legal team and their advisers who took immeasurable amounts of time away from their families to fight for this cause,” Lobato says. “They’ve inspired me.”
The undergraduate Commencement ceremony takes place June 6; visit the Commencement site for more information.