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The People v. Francis

OPINION FILED JULY 3, 1968.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT,

v.

RALPH E. FRANCIS ET AL., APPELLEES.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Kankakee County; the Hon. VICTOR M. CARDOSI, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE HOUSE DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is a quo warrantor action by the State's Attorney of Kankakee County against the members of the Board of Junior College District No. 520 praying for their ouster on the ground that the Public Junior College Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, chap. 122, pars. 101-1 to 108-2), under which the District was organized and the Board elected, is unconstitutional. The circuit court of Kankakee County held the Act constitutional in all respects and dismissed the complaint. Plaintiff elected to stand on the complaint and this appeal followed.

The parties use different sequences in discussing the 13 points of unconstitutionality alleged by plaintiff. We approach them somewhat arbitrarily, therefore, and will commence with plaintiff's basic thesis that the legislature lacked authority to create junior colleges, and the powers granted to the State Junior College Board were without sufficient standards and constituted discriminatory special legislation.

It is contended that section I of article VIII of the constitution, charging the legislature to provide a system of free schools, is a statement of limitation rather than grant. People ex rel. Leighty v. Young, 309 Ill. 27, is cited as precedent for the statement that no system other than a common-school system is within the power of the State to create. People ex rel. Kane v. Weis, 275 Ill. 581, held section I of article VIII to be a command to provide a system of free schools for all children of the State, and it is argued that even though the legislature had authority, the Act falls short of providing free schools because students may be required to pay tuition. (Junior college districts organized under the Public Junior College Act are not a part of the common school system.) The basic authority of the legislature is unrestricted save only if a power is denied by the State or Federal constitution. (People ex rel. Moshier v. City of Springfield, 370 Ill. 541.) The question of the legislature's power to create public corporations in the area of higher education was laid to rest in People ex rel. Board of Trustees of U. of I. v. Barrett, 382 Ill. 321, in connection with the University of Illinois. Since, as we have indicated, junior college districts are created under the legislature's power to create public corporations, People v. Weis, 275 Ill. 581, is inapplicable.

Section 2-12 of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, chap. 122, par. 102-12) is criticized as not giving sufficient standards to the State Board for organization of junior college districts, and section 5-4 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, chap. 122, par. 105-4) is said to give the State Board absolute power to determine the manner of allocation of State funds between junior colleges without proper standards. These sections are charged to be invalid grants of legislative power, discriminatory special legislation and in violation of due process and equal protection.

Section 2-12(f) authorizes the State Board to determine standards and site location in relation to existing institutions of higher learning, possible enrollment, assessed valuation and business and agricultural conditions reflecting educational needs in the area. This is followed in section 3-3 by provision for notice and hearing on the question of organization. Evidence is to be heard as to the school needs and conditions of the territory and adjacent area. Only then may the State Board determine "whether it is for the best interests of the schools of such area and the educational welfare of the students therein that such district be organized, and shall determine also whether the territory described in the petition is compact and contiguous for college purposes." Section 4B-4 of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1951, chap. 122, par. 4B-4), which gave county boards of school trustees practically identical powers with respect to organization and boundary changes of elementary and high schools, withstood a similar constitutional attack of lack of sufficient standards in School District No. 79 v. School Trustees, 4 Ill.2d 533. It was there said at pages 537, 538: "It is to be admitted that these standards are general rather than specific in nature. However, it would be both impossible and undesirable for the legislature to draft rigid non-discretionary standards which would embrace each and every school district boundary change." A line of cases originating with Kenyon v. Moore, 287 Ill. 233, was distinguished because the statutes set no standards to guide county superintendents. People ex rel. Board of Education v. Read, 344 Ill. 397, struck down a statute which provided that in the creation or alteration of districts each must contain a city of 3,000 population for the reason that it prevented an adjacent area with the same total population and needs from organizing and hence was discriminatory. However, population and assessed valuation have been recognized as factors in fixing standards. Section 3-1 of the Act fixes minimum population at either 30,000 persons or at least three counties and assessed valuation at not less than $75 million as minimum standards. In People v. Deatherage, 401 Ill. 25, this court upheld a statute requiring a minimum population of 2,000 and a minimum assessed valuation of $6 million.

Section 2-12(e) delegates power to the State Board to determine adequate standards for the physical plant and facilities in language strikingly similar to that given to the Superintendent of Public Instruction in section 2-3.12 of the School Code. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1963, chap. 122, par. 2-3.12.) In Board of Education v. Page, 33 Ill.2d 372, while we held the specifications promulgated under the power invalid, the statute itself was found to be constitutional. (See also Department of Public Works and Buildings v. Lanter, 413 Ill. 581; People v. Illinois Toll Highway Commission, 3 Ill.2d 218.) Nor do we think the power given the State Board to marshal priorities under section 5-4 lacks standards. As was said in the Toll Road case: "When it is necessary, the legislature may commit to others the responsibility for the accomplishment of the details of its expressed purpose. The scope of permissible delegation must be measured in terms of the complexity and diversity of the conditions which will be encountered in the enforcement of the statute." (3 Ill.2d 218, 233.) This statement applies forcefully to the junior college problem.

As heretofore noted, section 3-3 of the Act provides for notice and hearing on a petition to organize a junior college district. Section 3-4 establishes procedures for the hearing. The State Board's decision is reviewable under the Administrative Review Act, application for review being restricted to petitioners or residents who appeared at the hearing. It is contended that these sections are discriminatory special legislation in violation of due process under the Federal and State constitutions, because they do not affect each member of the territory sought to be included alike, by denying those who were absent from the hearing their day in court. Reliance is placed on People ex rel. Bensenville Com. H.S. Dist. v. Rathje, 333 Ill. 304, which held that due process extends to administrative as well as judicial proceedings. In Bagdonas v. Liberty Land and Investment Co., 309 Ill. 103, the settled principle was stated in part: "In order to authorize a judicial review of such classifications it must clearly appear that there is no fair reason for the law that would not require with equal force its extension to others not included. The legislature may determine upon what differences a distinction may be made for the purpose of statutory classification, between provisions otherwise having resemblance, if such power is not arbitrarily exercised and the distinction has a reasonable basis." (Pages 109-110.) We are of the opinion that there is a reasonable basis for the restriction. Those persons who did not take sufficient interest to appear and be heard at the hearing are in a different category from those who did appear. This provision is not a violation of due process.

Plaintiff asserts that sections 2-12 and 5-1 of the Act, allocating State tax funds for local purposes when all of the territory in the State is not eligible, are special legislation and a denial of due process. Reliance is placed on Board of Education v. Haworth, 274 Ill. 538. There, the attack was made on the statutory scheme by which State tax funds were apportioned to the county superintendent of schools of each county in proportion to the number of persons in each county under 21 years of age. The county superintendent of each county was then required to pay out of the money apportioned to him the tuition of students residing in non-high school districts who attended high schools in other districts to a maximum of $40 per pupil. The provision was held invalid because the whole State was being taxed to provide funds which were used discriminatorily to assist the taxpayers of non-high districts by easing their tax burden while no such assistance was given to the taxpayers residing in a high school district. That case is distinguishable.

Allocations under the Public Junior College Act are made on the principle of providing economic assistance to junior college districts but on a nondiscriminatory basis for student residents of the State regardless of whether the student is or is not a resident of the junior college district. The nonresident junior college student is provided the same educational facilities and the same State aid per semester hour as is paid for a resident student so that all residents of the State who attend a junior college district receive equal and identical benefit of the funds collected on a statewide basis. The residents of a junior college district are not taxed to contribute to the local and corporate purposes of another public corporation since no other public corporation has the duty of providing junior college facilities and opportunities.

No citation of authority is offered for the proposition that sections 6-5.1, 6-5.2 and 6-5.8 of the Act are invalid as denying due process and equal protection because the State Board's determinations regarding the annexation or detachment of territory are not subject to administrative review. A similar objection was raised in connection with a park district in People ex rel. Honefenger v. Burris, 408 Ill. 68, and it was there said at page 79: "The legislature has the power to deny the privilege of detachment of territory to this park district, and cannot be compelled to bestow it for the benefit of any group therein. What we have held, in respect to the denial of the right of detachment to school districts, applied with equivalent force to park districts of the character of the one attacked here. See People v. Deatherage, 401 Ill. 25: People v. Camargo School Dist., 313 Ill. 321." This attack is not well taken.

Section 6-2 of the Act provides that prospective junior college students who do not live within a junior college district may notify their local district by July 1 that they intend to attend some junior college in the State and they are then entitled to have their tuition paid by their district. This provision is attacked as being in violation of section 10 of article IX of the Illinois constitution, in that a high school district which contains territory not in a junior college district is forced to pay a debt which it did not incur and is for the corporate purposes of another municipal corporation. Further, it is suggested that taxpayers of the high school district are required to pay taxes to support junior college districts in which they do not reside. While the legislature may not directly levy a local tax, it has the power to grant municipalities that right when, in its discretion, it is deemed proper to do so. (People ex rel. Moshier v. City of Springfield, 370 Ill. 541.) Education relates to the general welfare of the State and is not local in nature. The State may impose an educational duty on a municipal corporation even though its performance will create a debt to be paid by local taxation. (People ex rel. Sanitary Dist. v. Schlaeger, 391 Ill. 314; cf. Ruth v. Aurora Sanitary District, 17 Ill.2d 11.) Neither Sleight v. People, 74 Ill. 47, nor Morgan v. Schusselle, 228 Ill. 106, cited by plaintiff, are applicable. Each authorized creation of an obligation for purely local purposes. Actually, the provision for tuition is for the public purpose of increasing educational opportunities to those residing outside a junior college district rather than paying the cost of operation of the junior college district attended.

Section 6-2 is further attacked because it may result in double taxation of a taxpayer who resides in a junior college district and within a high school district which is not entirely included in a junior college district. It is argued, again without citation of authority, that this violates the requirement of uniformity of taxation. "The principle of uniformity is not violated by levying taxes by two overlapping municipalities on the same property, even though it be for a similar purpose." (Board of Highway Comrs. v. City of Bloomington, 253 Ill. 164, 168; see ...


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