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United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, E.D

April 30, 1970


Before Swygert, Chief Circuit Judge, Perry and Marovitz, District Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Swygert, Chief Judge.


This is a class action challenging the validity of Art. IV, section 4-1.1 of the Illinois Public Aid Code, Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 23, § 4-1.1 (1967),*fn1 and Illinois Public Aid Regulation 150 issued pursuant thereto.*fn2 Section 4-1.1 provides that needy children who are deprived of parental support and are between eighteen and twenty-one years of age and in regular attendance in high school, vocational school, or technical training school are eligible to receive Aid to Families with Dependent Children (A.F.D.C.) benefits. Plaintiffs allege that section 4-1.1 is inconsistent with section 406(a)(2) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 606(a)(2) and void under the Supremacy Clause.*fn3 They also assert that section 4-1.1 violates equal protection of the laws by failing to provide benefits to otherwise eligible children between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one who are attending college. We hold that section 4-1.1 is consistent with section 406(a)(2) of the Social Security Act and that it comports with the requirements of the fourteenth amendment. Accordingly, the relief requested by the plaintiffs must be denied.

This action was instituted on November 8, 1968 by plaintiff Loverta Alexander, individually and on behalf of her son, Jerome Alexander. Plaintiff's action was brought, pursuant to Rule 23(a), (b)(2) and (b)(3), Fed.R.Civ.P., on behalf of all persons similarly situated. The members of the plaintiff class include all children between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one and their parents or legal guardians who are denied A.F.D.C. benefits solely because said children are college or university students instead of high school, trade school, or vocational school students. The defendants, Harold O. Swank, David L. Daniel, and Mae Withers, are officials responsible for the administration of A.F.D.C. benefits in Illinois. On March 11, 1969 Georgia Townsend intervened as plaintiff both individually and on behalf of her minor daughter, Omega Minor, and as a member of the class described in the original complaint filed by Loverta Alexander.

Plaintiffs' complaint states a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and is properly maintained as a class action in accordance with Rule 23, Fed.R.Civ.P. This court was correctly convened as a three-judge court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2281, 2284 and jurisdiction to hear plaintiffs' action is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1343(3), 2201.

Both plaintiffs and defendants have moved for summary judgment on the basis of material before us. All questions presented in this appeal involve issues of law and can be appropriately determined on the basis of the affidavits and pleadings. As a preliminary matter, defendants argue that the affidavits of plaintiffs demonstrate that Jerome Alexander and Omega Minor are not students in regular attendance in college and that they, therefore, lack standing to maintain this action on behalf of the plaintiff class. We disagree.

To possess standing to challenge the validity of a state statute the party seeking relief must allege "`such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court so largely depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions.' Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204, 82 S.Ct. 691, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962)." Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 99, 88 S.Ct. 1942, 20 L.Ed.2d 947 (1968). Under this standard a needy child between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one who merely wishes to attend college might possess a personal stake sufficient to establish the requisite adverseness necessary for standing to challenge section 4-1.1. It should be undisputed, however, that standing exists if a person is actually denied benefits for any period solely because he regularly attends college rather than high school or vocational school. Thus, plaintiffs need not show that they are presently entitled to A.F.D.C. payments. We think the pleadings and the affidavits sufficiently demonstrate that Jerome Alexander and Omega Minor regularly attended college in the past and were deprived of A.F.D.C. benefits as a result.

Section 4-1.1. provides that a high school or vocational school student must be in "regular attendance" in order to receive A.F.D.C. benefits. Regular attendance is defined as "attendance full time during the regular terms of such schools, or attendance part time * * * as may be authorized by rule of the Illinois Department for the purpose of permitting the child to engage in employment. * * *" The key to the interpretation of regular attendance is the meaning of "attendance full time." That term is not defined by the statute or by regulation of the Illinois Department of Public Aid.

Jerome Alexander graduated from high school on August 15, 1968, four days after he reached his eighteenth birthday. On September 11, 1968 he enrolled in fourteen hours of classes for the fall semester at Wilson Junior College in Chicago. Without express regulations to the contrary, we think this constitutes full time attendance. On October 4, 1968 defendant Mae Withers, superintendent of the Woodlawn District Office of the Cook County Department of Public Aid, acting pursuant to section 4-1.1 and Illinois Department of Public Aid Regulation 150 withdrew A.F.D.C. benefits to Jerome Alexander and his mother, Loverta Alexander. Defendants admit that the sole ground for withdrawing benefits to plaintiffs was the fact that Jerome was over eighteen and not attending high school or vocational school. Thus defendants' action on October 4, 1968 injured plaintiffs and provided them with standing to challenge the validity of section 4-1.1.

Omega Minor graduated from high school in August 1966. In September 1966 she enrolled at Southeast Junior College in courses providing thirteen hours credit. We believe that this is sufficient to constitute attendance full time within the meaning of section 4-1.1. On December 19, 1966 Omega Minor celebrated her eighteenth birthday. In January 1967, before the end of the fall term, A.F.D.C. benefits previously paid to Georgia Townsend for support of Omega were withdrawn. Again the sole reason for the cessation of benefits was plaintiff's failure to qualify for benefits under section 4-1.1. After aid was withdrawn Omega Minor continued to attend Southeast Junior College. We think the cessation of aid in January is sufficient to give plaintiff Townsend standing to challenge section 4-1.1.

Defendants cite numerous passages from plaintiffs' affidavits to demonstrate that plaintiffs are unsatisfactory students and that they were unwilling to perform part time work. In the absence of express regulations defining full time attendance under section 4-1.1, we think these considerations are irrelevant. With standing established we now turn to plaintiffs' substantive attacks on section 4-1.1.

I. Is section 4-1.1 consistent with the Social Security Act?

In 1935 Congress enacted Title IV of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 601 to 644, as a federal grant-in-aid program designed to provide funds to states which establish Aid to Dependent Children Programs.*fn4 Section 406(a) of that title defines the class of dependent children for whom federal matching funds are available. A dependent child according to 406(a)(2) includes a child who is under eighteen or between eighteen and twenty-one years of age and a student regularly attending secondary school, college, or a course of vocational or technical training. Plaintiffs argue that states must adopt this definition in determining which persons are eligible for benefits under their own A.F.D.C. programs. We disagree.

The primary purposes of Title IV of the Social Security Act were expressed by Congress in section 401, 42 U.S.C. § 601 as follows:

    For the purpose of encouraging the care of
  dependent children in their own homes or in the homes
  of relatives by enabling each State to furnish
  financial assistance and rehabilitation and other
  services, as far as practicable under the conditions
  in such State, to needy dependent children and the
  parents or relatives with whom they are living to
  help maintain and strengthen family life and to help
  such parents or relatives to attain or retain
  capability for the maximum self-support and
  maintenance of continuing parental care and
  protection, there is authorized to be appropriated
  for each fiscal year a sum sufficient to carry out
  the purposes of this part. The sums made available
  under this section shall be used for making payments
  to States which have submitted, and had approved by
  the Secretary, State plans for aid and services to
  needy families with children.

As is readily evident from this section, Congress was primarily interested in encouraging state participation in A.F.D.C. programs and not in establishing a uniform national welfare system. Variations among state programs were clearly envisioned as is evidenced by recognition that the purposes of the Act would be carried out "as far as practical under the conditions in such state." Congress insured that federal provisions and policies would be followed by providing for review of state programs by the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. Section 404(a), 42 U.S.C. § 604(a). The Secretary of H.E.W. approved section 4-1.1 of the Illinois Public Aid Code on August 31, 1967. We are, nevertheless, not foreclosed from conducting our own examination to determine whether the Secretary of H.E.W. was correct in determining that section 4-1.1 is consistent with federal standards. Dandridge v. Williams, 397 U.S. 471, 90 S.Ct. 1153, 25 L.Ed.2d 491 (April 6, 1970); Rosado v. Wyman, 397 U.S. 397, 90 S.Ct. 1207, 25 L.Ed.2d 442 (April 6, 1970).

Plaintiffs maintain that section 406(a)(2) allows states a limited choice in defining "dependent children" but compels them to provide A.F.D.C. benefits either to all eligible children between eighteen and twenty-one who are students or to deny aid to all persons over eighteen. We disagree. In contrast to other sections in which Congress has mandated uniform standards or a choice of standards in state programs, the words of section 406(a)(2) do not expressly and unequivocally require states to incorporate the federal definition of dependent children in their own programs. Cf. section 402(a), 42 U.S.C. § 602(a), Dandridge v. Williams, supra; Rosado v. Wyman, supra.

Furthermore, the legislative history of section 406(a)(2), which was enacted as an amendment to the Social Security Act in 1965, indicates that Congress granted states considerable flexibility in extending A.F.D.C. benefits to children over eighteen years of age. We are convinced that the range of choices granted under that section is significantly greater than plaintiffs suggest. Prior to the 1965 amendment, "dependent children" in the Social Security Act was defined in a manner nearly identical to section 4-1.1 of the Illinois Public Aid Code.*fn5 The Senate Committee on Finance explained the purpose of the 1965 amendment as follows:

  Under existing law States, at their option, may
  continue payments to needy children up to age 21 in
  the aid to families with dependent children program,
  providing they are "regularly attending a high school
  in pursuance of a course of study leading to a high
  school diploma or its equivalent or regularly
  attending a course of vocational or technical
  training designed to fit him for gainful employment."
  The committee added an amendment extending this
  provision so as to include needy children under 21
  who are regularly "attending a school, college, or
  university." Federal sharing for this purpose would
  thus be available to States who implement such a
  program for payments to children regularly attending
  a college, or university, as well as those attending
  high school or a vocational school, thus bringing
  this provision more nearly in line with the provision
  of the bill relating to the continuation of a child's
  benefit under the OASDI system. 1965 Cong. &
  Admin.News, p. 2087.

The Committee report does not state or even imply that programs including provisions adopted pursuant to the 1964 amendment were invalidated by the 1965 amendment to section 402(a)(2); instead, the report strongly suggests that the purpose of the 1965 amendment was merely to extend the availability of federal matching funds for states who wished to enact provisions providing for aid to dependent children and needy college students between ages eighteen and twenty-one. Plaintiffs rely heavily upon the H.E.W. Handbook of Public Assistance, Pt. IV §§ G-3210, G-3220 (1967), to demonstrate a contrary intent. Although the Handbook offers several additional explanations for Congress' action, we find nothing contrary to the intent expressed in the Committee report to make the adoption of the definition contained in section 406(a) discretionary with the states. In summary, therefore, we hold that section 4-1.1 is not at variance with section 406(a)(2) of the Social Security Act.

Our holding is consistent with the Supreme Court's decision in King v. Smith, 392 U.S. 309, 88 S.Ct. 2128, 20 L.Ed.2d 1118 (1968). That case involved Alabama's so-called substitute father regulation which denied A.F.D.C. benefits to children of a mother who "cohabits" in or outside her home with any single or married able-bodied man. The regulation had not been approved by H.E.W. The Court held that the Alabama regulation, by punishing children because of immoral acts of their mothers, operated in a fashion in direct conflict with the paramount objective of Title IV, protecting dependent and needy children. Accord, Doe v. Shapiro, 302 F. Supp. 761 (D.C.Conn., 1969). We agree with plaintiffs that permitting dependent children to complete their education is at least in part a purpose of the Social Security Act. We are of the opinion, however, that this purpose is not so central and overriding as to require us to hold that section 4-1.1 of the Illinois Public Aid Code is void under the Supremacy Clause.*fn6

II. Does section 4-1.1 violate the Equal Protection Clause?

Section 4-1.1 and Public Aid Regulation 150 create two classes of poor families with dependent children different only in that in one the dependent child attends college and in the other attends high school, vocational school, or technical training school. The latter class is entitled to A.F.D.C. benefits while the former is not. We must, therefore, determine whether classification on the basis of the type school which a dependent child attends is irrational, arbitrary, and in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the fourteenth amendment.

The standard by which courts should determine the constitutionality of state welfare provisions under the fourteenth amendment has been a subject of considerable dispute since the Supreme Court's decision in Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618, 89 S.Ct. 1322, 22 L.Ed.2d 600 (1969); see Rothstein v. Wyman, 303 F. Supp. 339 (S.D.N.Y. 1969); Napper v. Wyman, 305 F. Supp. 429 (S.D.N.Y. 1969). In Shapiro the Court intimated, without deciding, that the states must demonstrate a "compelling state interest" to sustain state welfare statutes since legislative classifications may deny recipients "food, shelter, and other necessities of life," Shapiro, supra, 394 U.S. at 627, 89 S.Ct. at 1327. We believe that the appropriate standard has been conclusively determined, however, in the recent case of Dandridge v. Williams, 397 U.S. 471, 90 S.Ct. 1153 (April 6, 1970).

In that case the Court was asked to determine whether a Maryland statute imposing an upper limit on the total amount of welfare benefits which any one family may receive violated the fourteenth amendment. In upholding the provision the Court commented as follows:

  [H]ere we deal with state regulation in the social
  and economic field, not affecting freedoms guaranteed
  by the Bill of Rights, and claimed to violate the
  Fourteenth Amendment only because the regulation
  results in some disparity in grants of welfare
  payments to the largest AFDC families. For this Court
  to approve the invalidation of state economic or
  social regulation as "overreaching" would be far too
  reminiscent of an era when the Court thought the
  Fourteenth Amendment

  gave it power to strike down state laws "because they
  may be unwise, improvident, or out of harmony with a
  particular school of thought." Williamson v. Lee
  Optical Co., 348 U.S. 483, 488, 75 S.Ct. 461, 464, 99
  L.Ed. 563. That era long ago passed into history.
  Ferguson v. Skrupa, 372 U.S. 726, 83 S.Ct. 1028, 10
  L.Ed.2d 93.

  In the area of economics and social welfare, a State
  does not violate the Equal Protection Clause merely
  because the classifications made by its laws are
  imperfect. If the classification has some "reasonable
  basis," it does not offend the Constitution simply
  because the classification "is not made with
  mathematical nicety or because in practice it results
  in some inequality." Lindsley v. Natural Carbonic Gas
  Co., 220 U.S. 61, 78, 31 S.Ct. 337, 340, 55 L.Ed.
  369. "The problems of government are practical ones
  and may justify, if they do not require, rough
  accommodations-illogical, it may be, and
  unscientific." Metropolis Theatre Co. v. City of
  Chicago, 228 U.S. 61, 69-70, 33 S.Ct. 441, 443, 57
  L.Ed. 730. "A statutory discrimination will not be
  set aside if any state of facts reasonably may be
  conceived to justify it." McGowan v. Maryland,
  366 U.S. 420, 426, 81 S.Ct. 1101, 1105, 6 L.Ed.2d 393.

  To be sure, the cases cited, and many others
  enunciating this fundamental standard under the Equal
  Protection Clause, have in the main involved state
  regulation of business or industry. The
  administration of public welfare assistance, by
  contrast, involves the most basic economic needs of
  impoverished human beings. We recognize the
  dramatically real factual difference between the
  cited cases and this one, but we can find no basis
  for applying a different constitutional standard. See
  Snell v. Wyman, D.C., 281 F. Supp. 853, aff'd,
  393 U.S. 323, 89 S.Ct. 553, 21 L.Ed.2d 511. It is a
  standard that has consistently been applied to state
  legislation restricting the availability of
  employment opportunities. Goesaert v. Cleary,
  335 U.S. 464, 69 S.Ct. 198, 93 L.Ed. 163; Kotch v. Board
  of River Port Pilot Com'rs, 330 U.S. 552, 67 S.Ct.
  910, 91 L.Ed. 1093. See also Flemming v. Nestor,
  363 U.S. 603, 80 S.Ct. 1367, 4 L.Ed.2d 1435, And it is a
  standard that is true to the principle that the
  Fourteenth Amendment gives the federal courts no
  power to impose upon the States their views of wise
  economic or social policy. Dandridge v. Williams,
  397 U.S. 471, 484, 90 S.Ct. 1153, 1161. (footnotes

When this standard is applied we find that section 4-1.1 is constitutional.

Defendants maintain that section 4-1 is designed primarily to permit dependent children to obtain sufficient education to become employable. They argue that special benefits to needy children in high school or vocational school are justified since "persons over 18 who are still in high school are educationally slow, and persons in vocational schools, generally speaking, are not on an intellectual par with other students are less able to presently support themselves." The overall purpose of the enactment is to conserve state funds and to promote governmental economy.

The limited nature of our review compels us to uphold section 4-1.1. It is undisputed that the twin goals of aiding needy children to become employable and of insuring fiscal integrity of state welfare programs are legitimate state interests. And, although we are inclined to question the wisdom of extending aid only to high school or vocational school students, we agree that there is a rational connection between these legislative objectives and the classifications contained in section 4-1.1.

Accordingly, the relief requested by plaintiffs must be denied.

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