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Board of Education v. Page

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 29, 1965.

BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF ROCKFORD, APPELLEE,

v.

RAY PAGE, SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION, ET AL., APPELLANTS.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County; the Hon. ALBERT S. O'SULLIVAN, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE SOLFISBURG DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This case involves the validity of specifications for public school buildings promulgated in 1964 by the defendant, Superintendent of Public Instruction, purportedly pursuant to section 2-3.12 of the School Code. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1963, chap. 122, par. 2-3.12.) The plaintiff, Board of Education for School District 205 in the city of Rockford, brought this action for declaratory judgment seeking a declaration that both the statute and the specifications were unconstitutional and void, and for injunctive relief against their enforcement. After hearing evidence the circuit court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit granted the relief requested. Defendant appeals to this court, a constitutional question being directly involved.

The School Code, enacted in 1961, gives to the Superintendent of Public Instruction the power, inter alia, to make rules necessary to carry into effect school laws, (Ill. Rev. Stat., 1961, chap. 122, par. 2-3.6,) and further:

"To prepare for school boards with the advice of the Department of Public Health, the Supervising Architect and the State Fire Marshal specifications for the minimum requirements for the heating, ventilating, lighting, seating, water supply, toilet and safety against fire which will conserve the health and safety of the pupils of the public schools." Ill. Rev. Stat., 1961, chap. 122, par. 2-3.12.

Pursuant to this statutory authority the defendant, in 1964, promulgated a 151-page circular entitled "Building Specifications for Health and Safety in Public Schools, Circular Series A, No. 157."

At the hearing on the merits the only evidence offered was on behalf of the plaintiff. It appears from the testimony that in 1956, prior to the promulgation of defendant's specifications, the Director of the Fire Prevention Bureau of Rockford made a detailed inspection of the public schools and made 207 recommendations based on the National Fire Prevention Code and the National Building Code. The plaintiff then issued $500,000 in bonds, pursuant to referendum, to comply with these recommendations. In two years the recommendations were complied with at a cost of approximately $550,000.

The plaintiff further adduced uncontradicted expert testimony that the Rockford public schools are now substantially safe and comply with the National Fire Prevention Code, the National Fire Protection Association Building Exits Code 101, the Rockford Building Code, the Rockford Plumbing Code, the standards established by the Division of Sanitary Engineering, State Department of Public Health, and the National Electric Code, and the recommendations of the National Board of Fire Underwriters. There was further expert testimony that it would cost $60,000 to make the survey required by the Superintendent's specifications, and $1,000,000 to comply with these specifications.

The defendant argues that the statutory authority for his specifications sets a sufficient standard to control administrative discretion and is, therefore, valid. He further contends that the specifications promulgated thereunder were proper, but if any specification is invalid, that provision is separable from the whole.

Plaintiff, however, insists that the statute unconstitutionally delegates law-making power to the Superintendent and that both the statute and the specifications are invalid.

It is clear that the General Assembly cannot delegate its general legislative power to determine what the law shall be. (People ex rel. Daesch v. Mayor of Belleville, 22 Ill.2d 226; City of Evanston v. Wazau, 364 Ill. 198.) However it may authorize others to do those things which it might properly do, but cannot do as understandingly or advantageously itself. Memorial Gardens Ass'n v. Smith, 16 Ill.2d 116; People ex rel. Coutrakon v. Lohr, 9 Ill.2d 539; People ex rel. Gutknecht v. Chicago Port District, 4 Ill.2d 363.

The precision of the permissible standard required to be set by the legislature must necessarily vary according to the nature of the ultimate objective and the peculiar problems involved. (People ex rel. Daesch v. Mayor of Belleville, 22 Ill.2d 226; Department of Public Works and Buildings v. Lanter, 413 Ill. 581; Kough v. Hoehler, 413 Ill. 409.) Plaintiff does not question that the legislature could properly set minimum standards for public school buildings to protect the health and safety of pupils. But the technical complexity and the diversity of problems and the degree of detail involved in setting specifications for such minimum standards obviously can be better resolved by an administrative body than by the legislature itself. We also feel that the very nature of the objective to be achieved and the problems to be solved negate the usefulness of setting more particular standards by the legislature. People ex rel. Daesch v. Mayor of Belleville, 22 Ill.2d 226.

The legislature has commanded the Superintendent to prepare "specifications for the minimum requirements * * * which will conserve the health and safety of the pupils." We conclude that this is a proper delegation of administrative authority to the Superintendent.

The next question is whether or not in promulgating the specifications under attack, the Superintendent acted within the ambit of his delegated authority. In so determining, we have examined the entire circular promulgated by the Superintendent. The circular is denominated "Building Specifications," and is referred to by the parties as a "code." It is in fact a comprehensive building code, consisting of detailed specifications and extensive provisions and rules for administration and enforcement.

This code repeatedly states that the standards set are "minimum," but in the foreword, the Superintendent expresses a desire that the specifications "will furnish * * * an adequate guide toward ...


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