APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Edgar County; the Hon. JOHN
F. SPIVEY, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE MAXWELL DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
The State's Attorney of Edgar County brought a quo warrantor proceeding in the circuit court of that county against the Board of Education of Community Unit School District No. 4 of Edgar County, and the individual defendants as members or officers of that board, calling upon them to show by what authority they claim the powers and offices they purport to have and hold. Pleas of justification were filed, issues were formed by replication, a stipulation was made as to the facts, the cause was heard by the court, and the issues found for respondents. The People appeal to this court as a franchise is involved.
The pertinent facts are set out in the stipulation as follows:
I. HISTORY. Community Unit School District No. 4 of Edgar County, Illinois, hereinafter called District 4, was organized as the result of an election recommended by the Edgar County School Survey Committee under the School Survey Law (House Bill 406 of the 64th General Assembly). This election was held on March 27, 1948, and District 4 began operation on the 1st day of July, 1948.
II. GEOGRAPHY. District 4 is roughly rectangular in form and is composed of the rural area around Paris in Edgar County, Illinois, and is bounded on the east by the Indiana State Line, about 8 miles east of Paris; on the south by the Clark County Line, about 9 miles south of Paris; on the west by other Community Unit School Districts, about 5 miles west of Paris; and on the north by Community Unit School Districts, a common grade district and a consolidated grade district, about 8 miles north of Paris. Paris Union School District No. 95, a special charter district maintaining grades 1 through 12, and whose territory is roughly coterminous with the city boundaries lies almost in the center of District 4 and is the hole in the doughnut of District 4.
III. HIGH SCHOOL ATTENDANCE. Prior to 1948 the territory of District 4 was non-high territory and parts or all of 51 common school districts were included in District 4. High School students from this territory have always attended Paris High School in substantial numbers and with few exceptions all of the high school students of this territory did attend Paris High School.
Paris High School has handled an enrollment of as many as 680 students and with some minor modifications and additions could handle approximately 800 students without serious overcrowding. In the school year 1953-54 Paris High School has an approximate enrollment of 635 including 230 from District 4, varying somewhat from day to day.
Paris High School facilities are substantially adequate for the present and projected high school enrollment of both districts; there are no cities, villages or incorporated towns in District 4 except the Village of Vermillion; and Paris is the school, church, trading and community center for the area of the entire district, with some small churches lying in District 4 and the eastern part of District 4 being within Indiana trading centers.
District 4 has not operated a high school within the District and is not at the time of entering into this stipulation planning a high school within the District. District 4 is furnishing transportation for all high school students residing within its territory to Paris High School and for the school year 1952-53 paid $69,024.94 tuition to Paris High School. This figure represents 42.2% of the total current operating expenditures for the Paris High School.
IV. BUILDINGS. In 1949 after the district had been in operation a year 29 school buildings were disposed of as unnecessary, unsuitable or inconvenient and at the present time the sale of four more buildings is contemplated because they are no longer suitable, convenient or necessary for school purposes. (Since this stipulation was made four additional school buildings have been disposed of at an election held for that purpose, in which the voters approved of the sale by a vote of 372 to 45.)
V. TRANSPORTATION. Children of District 4 are transported to the various attendance centers and to the high school by 21 buses. The average length of time each child is on the bus during the school day is 28.4 minutes, only 162 children ride the bus as long as an hour in the morning (55) or evening (107) and no child exceeds a total riding time of 1 3/4 hours per day.
VI. POPULATION, VALUATION AND ENROLLMENT. District 4 is educating approximately 636 elementary students; approximately 230 high school students; has an equalized assessed valuation of $27,349,427.00 and has approximately 5500 population.
The stipulation then stated that following the passage of House Bill 496 in 1951, (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1951, chap. 122, par. 7-13,) providing that the board of education of community unit school districts shall establish a program of studies extending through grades one through twelve, the question whether District No. 4 should build its own high school facilities to the detriment of District No. 95 of Paris was considered by the Schools Problems Commission, and the conclusion of the commission was that in order to settle any legal questions House Bill 510 should be presented to the legislature. This was done, and the bill was adopted and approved on July 13, 1953. This act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1953, chap. 122, pars. 734.2 and 734.3,) provides, briefly, that where a community unit school district has been organized around a special charter district, and a majority of the high school students of the unit district attend the special charter district high school, such unit district is a valid and a legally organized district, notwithstanding that grades nine through twelve are not being operated in the district. Section 2 of the act (par. 734.3) validates all previous acts of the district, the board and the officers thereof and provides that the persons acting as the board of education of such districts and their successors shall constitute the corporate authority of such district.
The quo warrantor complaint filed December 28, 1953, charged that the Board of Education of District No. 4 was usurping powers and the individual members thereof were holding office without authority. The defendants filed their answer and pleas of justification, showing the organization of District No. 4 by the election held March 27, 1948, by a vote of 591 for and 120 against; alleging that said territory was compact and contiguous and complied with all statutory requirements; alleging that said district had been operating, furnishing school facilities for students in the district for grades one through eight, and furnishing transportation and tuition for all high school students in the Paris high school; and alleged that the validating act of the legislature cured and validated any deficiencies and irregularities which may have existed in the organization of the district. The replication, which formed the issues, denied (1) that District No. 4 is compact and contiguous within the intendment of the statutes, (2) that education was being furnished students in grades nine through twelve within the intendment of the legislature by furnishing transportation and tuition, and (3) that the ...