Appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon.
Simon L. Friedman, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE RYAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
This case involves the constitutionality of sections 1A-1 and 1A-2 of the Illinois School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 122, par. 1A-1, 1A-2), which prescribe the qualifications for membership on the State Board of Education and establish regional representational districts. Two separate actions challenging these provisions were filed in the circuit court of Sangamon County. Plaintiffs in one case are Jack Hoskins and other individuals, all of whom are disqualified from membership on the State Board of Education by section 1A-2. The other case is a class action brought by the Illinois Federation of Teachers and named individuals, on behalf of all persons disqualified from membership on the State Board of Education by section 1A-2. The complaints request a declaratory judgment that the sections are unconstitutional, and also request appropriate injunctive relief. Because the cases involve the same legal issues they were consolidated by the circuit court. Subsequently the court allowed the motion of defendant Governor Walker for summary judgment. We granted plaintiffs' motion to transfer the appeal to this court pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 302(b). 50 Ill.2d R. 302(b).
Challenged in this case are provisions of the School Code enacted to implement section 2 of article X of the 1970 State constitution, which states:
"(a) There is created a State Board of Education to be elected or selected on a regional basis. The number of members, their qualifications, terms of office and manner of election or selection shall be provided by law. The board, except as limited by law, may establish goals, determine policies, provide for planning and evaluating education programs and recommend financing. The Board shall have such other duties and powers as provided by law.
(b) The State Board of Education shall appoint a chief state educational officer."
To implement this constitutional provision the legislature passed Public Act 78-361 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 122, pars. 1A-1 through 1A-4). The Act creates a State Board of Education consisting of 17 members to be appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. Regional representation is accomplished by selecting Board members from the five judicial districts. Eight members are to be selected from the First Judicial District, two members are to be selected from each of the remaining judicial districts, and one member is to be selected at large. The Board will not assume full powers until the expiration of the term of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction on the second Monday in January, 1975, at which time it will assume all duties currently delegated to the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. During the interim between its appointment and assumption of full powers, the Board is to serve in an advisory capacity.
Two sections of the Act are challenged here, section 1A-1 providing for regional representation from the judicial districts (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 122, par. 1A-1), and section 1A-2 establishing the qualifications for Board membership (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 122, par. 1A-2). We shall first consider the challenge to section 1A-2.
Qualification for Board membership is specified in the following terms:
"1A-2. Qualifications. The members of the State Board of Education shall be citizens of the United States and residents of the State of Illinois and shall be selected as far as may be practicable on the basis of their knowledge of, or interest and experience in, problems of public education. No member of the State Board of Education shall be gainfully employed or administratively connected with any school system or institution of higher learning, public or private, nor shall they be members of a school board or board of school trustees of a public or nonpublic school, college, university or technical institution." (Emphasis added.)
Plaintiffs in both suits contend that the italicized portion of section 1A-2, which makes them ineligible for membership on the Board, denies them equal protection of the law. Plaintiffs Hoskins et al. also argue that the term "administratively connected with any school system or institution of higher learning" is unconstitutionally vague and that the broad disqualifications of section 1A-2 are repugnant to the mandate that Board members be chosen on the basis of their knowledge of and experience in the area of public education.
In deciding whether the disqualifications of section 1A-2, which admittedly prohibit active teachers and educators from serving on the State Board of Education, deny those persons equal protection, we are faced with the threshold question raised in one complaint of whether the statute is to be tested by traditional equal protection principles or by the more rigorous analysis applicable to classifications infringing upon fundamental rights. Tested by traditional principles a classification will be sustained if there is a reasonable basis for distinguishing the class to which the law is applicable from the class to which it is not. In such cases there is a presumption favoring the validity of the legislative classification and the burden is on the party challenging it to establish its invalidity. (People v. McCabe, 49 Ill.2d 338, 340-341.) In considering a classification which affects fundamental rights no such presumption of validity prevails and the classification will be sustained only if it is justified by a compelling State interest. Kramer v. Union Free School District No. 15, 395 U.S. 621, 23 L.Ed.2d 583, 89 S.Ct. 1886; Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections, 383 U.S. 663, 16 L.Ed.2d 169, 86 S.Ct. 1079.
The Supreme Court of the United States has held that neither the right to freely associate nor the right to participate in political activities or to be a candidate for office is absolute. (Broadrick v. Oklahoma, 413 U.S. 601, 37 L.Ed.2d 830, 93 S.Ct. 2908; United States Civil Service Com. v. National Association of Letter Carriers, 413 U.S. 548, 37 L.Ed.2d 796, 93 S.Ct. 2880.) The compelling-interest test is applied in cases where the limitations impose a real and appreciable impact on the exercise of the voting franchise. Bullock v. Carter, 405 U.S. 134, 31 L.Ed.2d 92, 92 S.Ct. 849.
Members of the State Board of Education are to be selected by appointment rather than by election. Consequently the qualification requirements of section 1A-2 will have no effect on voting rights. Absent any such effect on the voting franchise we believe these requirements must be tested by traditional equal protection principles. According to traditional analysis a legislative classification is presumed to be valid, and will not be set aside if any state of ...