Appeals from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon.
CREEL DOUGLASS, Judge, presiding. Reversed and remanded with
CRAVEN, J., DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.
January 23, 1969. Rehearing denied and opinion Gen. No. 11,014 modified March 7, 1969. Rehearing denied in Gen. No. 11,
As Modified on Denial of Petition for Rehearing in General No. 11,014.
These are three separate appeals from orders entered by the Circuit Court of Sangamon County in three separate administrative-review proceedings. In each case the circuit court affirmed an order of the Sangamon County Board of School Trustees entered in proceedings before that board for disconnection of certain parcels of land from Springfield School District (District No. 186, Sangamon County), plaintiff-appellant in each case. We have on our own motion, for purposes of decision and opinion only, combined these three appeals, inasmuch as the issue in each case is substantially the same.
In each of the three proceedings for disconnection, the board of school trustees ordered detachment from District No. 186 and that each respective parcel of land involved revert to the school district in which it formerly was located.
Each case involves a small parcel of land in Sangamon County annexed to the city of Springfield upon petition of its owner. Prior to annexation these parcels were in certain school districts. Under the statute then in effect (Ill Rev Stats 1965, c 122, § 7-2.1), the annexation of such parcels to the city of Springfield made the annexed parcel a part of School District No. 186 (Springfield), subject to detachment, as District No. 186 is a special charter district. In each case the school district, of which each parcel had been a part prior to annexation, filed a petition for review praying that said tract be disconnected from the Springfield district, alleging that the annexation to the Springfield district was not "for the best interests of the schools of the area and the educational welfare of the pupils therein."
Testimony and evidence on each petition was heard by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The record and report of this hearing was transmitted to the Sangamon County Board of School Trustees and to Springfield School District No. 186. In each case the Springfield School District denied the petition for detachment and the Sangamon County Board of School Trustees approved the petition. Thereafter, in each case, the Springfield School District sought administrative review in the Circuit Court of Sangamon County to review the order of the county board of school trustees. The circuit court affirmed the order of the county board of school trustees and denied post-trial motions by plaintiff.
Springfield School District No. 186 appealed directly to the Supreme Court, contending that section 7-2.1 of the Illinois School Code was unconstitutional; that the petitions were legally insufficient; that there was no evidence or that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the orders of the county board of school trustees; that incompetent, immaterial and irrelevant testimony was improperly admitted; and that the findings and orders of the county board of school trustees were against the manifest weight of the evidence and were outside the scope of the statute.
The Supreme Court determined that there was no fairly debatable constitutional question as to the constitutionality of section 7-2.1 of the School Code and transferred the cases to this court. This was predicated upon Schreiber v. County Board of School Trustees, 31 Ill.2d 121, 198 N.E.2d 848 (1964), and Board of Education of Spaulding School Dist. No. 58 v. Special Charter School Dist. No. 61, 32 Ill.2d 342, 205 N.E.2d 459 (1965), which held this section constitutional as against the same contentions here made.
An analysis of the background of the enactment of section 7-2.1 (passed in 1961) discloses that prior to its enactment when territory was annexed to a city lying within a special charter school district, that territory automatically became annexed to the charter school district, regardless of the effect upon the outlying district. Section 7-2.1 was enacted to permit the outlying district to object to the annexation to the special charter district and the disconnection from its district. The standard set by the statute is whether the proposed change of school district boundaries is for the best interests of the schools of the area and the educational welfare of the pupils.
The statute in question provided that upon petition by the school board or school trustees having jurisdiction over the property or territory either before or after annexation or disconnection, filed with the Superintendent of Public Instruction and certified copies with the board of education of the special charter district and the county board of school trustees of the county in which the county superintendent has supervision over the greatest portion of the territory of the district or districts affected, a hearing officer should conduct a hearing. The evidence produced at the hearing then is to be considered by both boards and an order entered by each. Should either or both boards find that the public interest and public welfare of the districts and persons involved indicate need or desirability therefor, the boards, or either of them, shall enter an order setting aside the annexation or disconnection with respect to all or any part of the territory. In the event that both boards determine from the evidence that the annexation or disconnection should be prevented in whole or in part, or delayed for a stated period, such boards should so order, in which event the annexation or disconnection takes effect thirty days after entry of the order unless appealed or set aside or suspended. The decisions of the boards are deemed "administrative decisions" within the meaning of the Administrative Review Act (Ill Rev Stats 1965, c 110, par 264).
On administrative review the test of the administrative decision is whether it is against the manifest weight of the evidence. Here the trial court determined in each of the three cases that the order of the county board of school trustees setting aside the annexation to the Springfield special charter district and the disconnection from the outlying district of which the territory formerly was a part, was not against the manifest weight of the evidence and affirmed the order.
It is not our proper function to reweigh the evidence presented at the hearings before the administrative bodies but to determine whether the findings of the circuit court are correct or in error. However, when an administrative order is against the manifest weight of the evidence or the administrative officer has acted arbitrarily and capriciously and thereby abused his discretionary powers, it is our duty to set aside such findings. Dorfman v. Gerber, 29 Ill.2d 191, 193 N.E.2d 770 (1963); Bruce v. Department of Registration and Education, 26 Ill.2d 612, 187 N.E.2d 711 (1963).
The questions to be considered in these cases are the public interest and welfare of the districts and persons involved. Evidentiary consideration given effect in prior cases include: assessed-value loss due to annexation to the charter district; the quality of education afforded in each district including teacher qualifications and salary; per capita cost of education per pupil; teacher-pupil ratio; special educational programs and ability to ...