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MCINNIS v. SHAPIRO

November 15, 1968

LINDA MCINNIS, A MINOR, ETC., ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SAMUEL H. SHAPIRO, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, RAY PAGE, SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, ADLAI E. STEVENSON, III, TREASURER OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, MICHAEL J. HOWLETT, AUDITOR OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, DEFENDANTS.



Before Hastings, Circuit Judge, and Decker and Marovitz, District Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Decker, District Judge.

This is a suit filed by a number of high school and elementary school students attending school within four school districts of Cook County, Illinois, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated challenging the constitutionality of various state statutes dealing with the financing of the public school system.*fn1

Plaintiffs claim that these statutes*fn2 violate their fourteenth amendment rights to equal protection and due process because they permit wide variations in the expenditures per student from district to district, thereby providing some students with a good education and depriving others, who have equal or greater educational need. Plaintiffs claim to be members of this disadvantaged group.

To correct this inequitable situation, they seek a declaration that the statutes are unconstitutional and a permanent injunction forbidding further distribution of tax funds in reliance on these laws.

The defendants are state officials charged with the administration of the legislation which allegedly permits this discrimination.

A three-judge district court was convened pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2281 and 2284. Defendants then moved to dismiss the complaint (1) for lack of jurisdiction and (2) for failure to state a cause of action.

We conclude that we have jurisdiction. After examining the complaint, and studying the extensive briefs filed by the respective parties as well as the brief of the amici curiae,*fn3 we further conclude that no cause of action is stated for two principal reasons: (1) the Fourteenth Amendment does not require that public school expenditures be made only on the basis of pupils' educational needs,*fn4 and (2) the lack of judicially manageable standards makes this controversy non-justiciable. After explaining the structure of the existing Illinois legislation, this opinion will discuss these two conclusions in detail.

I. Jurisdiction

The federal courts have jurisdiction over the subject matter of this controversy. As stated in Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 200, 82 S.Ct. 691, 701, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962):

  "Since the complaint plainly sets forth a case
  arising under the Constitution, the subject
  matter is within the federal judicial power
  defined in Art. III, § 2, and so within the power
  of Congress to assign to the jurisdiction of the
  District Courts."*fn5

Similarly, the allegations do not present a political question because there is no potential conflict between coordinate branches of the federal government.*fn6 Both the equal protection and the due process clauses have long been used to scrutinize state legislative action. See, e.g., Williamson v. Lee Optical of Oklahoma, 348 U.S. 483, 488-489, 75 S.Ct. 461, 99 L.Ed. 563 (1955).*fn7

II. The Financing of Illinois' Public Schools

The General Assembly has delegated authority to local school districts to raise funds by levying a tax on all property within the district. In addition, the school districts may issue bonds for constructing and repairing their buildings. Legislation limits both the maximum indebtedness and the maximum tax rate which localities may impose for educational purposes. In 1966-67, the approximately 1300 districts had roughly $840 per pupil with which to educate their students, of which about 75% came from local sources, 20% was derived from state aid, and 5% was supplied by the federal government. Since the financial ability of the individual districts varies substantially, per pupil expenditures vary between $480 and $1,000. State statutes which permit such wide variations allegedly deny the less fortunate Illinois students of their Constitutional rights.

Article VIII, section 1 of the Illinois Constitution, S.H.A. requires the legislature to "provide a thorough and efficient system of free schools, whereby all children of this state may receive a good common school education." Accordingly, a state common school fund supplements each district's local property tax revenues, guaranteeing a foundation level of $400 per student. The common school fund has two main components: (1) a flat grant to districts for each pupil, and (2) an equalization grant awarded to each district which levies a minimum property tax rate.*fn8 The equalization grant is calculated on the assumption that the district only assesses the minimum rate. Total revenues from the state common school fund account for about 15% — 18% of all districts' income.

The local tax revenue per student which is necessarily generated by the preceding minimum rate*fn9 is added to the flat grant per pupil. If this sum is less than $400, the difference is the equalization grant. Therefore, every district levying the minimum rate is assured of at least $400 per child. On the other hand, if a locality desires to tax itself more heavily than the minimum rate, it is not penalized by having the additional revenue considered before determination of the equalization grant. Since the hypothetical calculation uses the same tax rate for all localities, the assumed revenue per child depends upon the total assessed property ...


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