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01/19/88 Pre-School Owners v. the Department of Children

January 19, 1988

PRE-SCHOOL OWNERS ASSOCIATION OF ILLINOIS, INC., ET AL., APPELLEES

v.

THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILY SERVICES ET AL., APPELLANTS



SUPREME COURT OF ILLINOIS

518 N.E.2d 1018, 119 Ill. 2d 268, 116 Ill. Dec. 197 1988.IL.45

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. Richard L. Curry, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE MILLER delivered the opinion of the court. JUSTICE CUNNINGHAM took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE MILLER

The Pre-School Owners Association of Illinois, Inc., Burton D. Miller, and Crossroads Campus, Inc., brought this action in the circuit court of Cook County for declaratory and injunctive relief, challenging the constitutionality of certain provisions of the Child Care Act of 1969 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 23, pars. 2211 through 2230) (the Act) and of certain administrative regulations promulgated by the Department of Children and Family Services under authority of the Act. The trial Judge granted the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment on counts I through IV of their eight-count amended complaint, ruling that the statutory and

The Child Care Act of 1969 provides for the licensing and regulation of child care facilities in the State, and the legislature has committed that task to the Department of Children and Family Services. The Department has the responsibility for issuing, renewing, and revoking licenses for the operation of the various types of child care facilities that fall within its authority. The Act requires that the operator and the facility undergo examinations before a license may be issued (see Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 23, par. 2215), and in connection with that responsibility, the Department is authorized to prescribe regulations for child care facilities (see Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 23, par. 2217). A violation of the Act or of a departmental regulation is punishable as a class A misdemeanor. See Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 23, par. 2228.

In their action, the plaintiffs challenged a number of the statutory provisions and administrative regulations that are applicable to day-care centers. Plaintiff Pre-School Owners Association is an association of some 200 day-care centers in Illinois; plaintiff Burton D. Miller is the owner and operator of a day-care center, the Institute for Contemporary Education; and plaintiff Crossroads Campus, Inc., is a day-care center. In that part of the amended complaint at issue here, the plaintiffs attacked on several constitutional grounds the statutory provision that exempts certain types of day-care centers from coverage of the Act and challenged a number of the Department's regulations as violative of due process. I

The Act exempts certain categories of day-care centers from its coverage, and in counts I and III of their amended complaint the plaintiffs contended that the statutory exemptions were invalid under the Federal and State Constitutions because they denied equal protection and constituted special legislation (U.S. Const., amend. XIV; Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, sec. 2; art. IV, sec. 13). In count II the plaintiffs made the additional argument that an exemption for certain sectarian day-care facilities was a religious preference and therefore violated the establishment clause of the United States Constitution (U.S. Const., amend. I) as well as the comparable provision of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, sec. 3). The trial Judge agreed with the plaintiffs and ruled that the statutory exemptions were invalid on the grounds asserted.

Section 2.09 of the Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 23, par. 2212.09) defines the term "day care center" as "any child care facility which regularly provides day care for . . . (1) more than 8 children in a family home, or (2) more than 3 children in a facility other than a family home." Section 2.09 also sets out the following nine exceptions to that definition:

"(a) rograms operated by public or private elementary school systems or secondary level school units or institutions of higher learning which serve children who shall have attained the age of 3 years; (b) programs or that portion of the program which serves children who shall have attained the age of 3 years and which are recognized by the State Board of Education; (c) educational program or programs serving children who shall have attained the age of 3 years and which are operated by a school which is registered with the State Board of Education and which is recognized or accredited by a recognized national or multistate educational organization or association which regularly recognizes or accredits schools; (d) programs which exclusively serve or that portion of the program which serves handicapped children who shall have attained the age of 3 years but are less than 21 years of age and which are registered and approved as meeting standards of the State Board of Education and applicable fire marshal standards; (e) facilities operated in connection with a shopping center or service, religious services, or other similar facility, where transient children are cared for temporarily while parents or custodians of the children are occupied on the premises and readily available; (f) any type of day care center that is conducted on federal government premises; (g) special activities programs, including athletics, crafts instruction and similar activities conducted on an organized and periodic basis by civic, charitable and governmental organizations; (h) part day child care facilities, as defined in Section 2.10 of this Act; or (i) programs or that portion of the program which (1) serves children who shall have attained the age of 3 years, (2) is operated by churches or religious institutions as described in Section 501(c)(3) of the federal Internal Revenue Code, (3) receives no governmental aid, (4) is operated as a component of a religious, nonprofit elementary school, (5) operates primarily to provide religious education, and (6) meets appropriate State or local health and fire safety standards."

The exemptions contained in section 2.09 may be grouped, for reference, into three general categories. First, subsections (a), (b), (c), (d), and (i) exclude from coverage of the Act programs that are affiliated with schools or with institutions that come within the authority of the State Board of Education. Second, subsections (e), (g), and (h) exempt programs that operate on a short-term or temporary basis or serve a transient population. Third, subsection (f) exempts day-care programs that are conducted on Federal government premises. The trial Judge ruled that the exemptions contained in section 2.09 denied the plaintiffs equal protection and were invalid as special legislation. The trial Judge also found that the separate exemption accorded to certain sectarian day-care centers in subsection (i) was an invalid religious preference under the Federal and State Constitutions.

Statutes are presumed to be constitutional, and one who challenges a provision has the burden of establishing its invalidity. (Sayles v. Thompson (1983), 99 Ill. 2d 122, 124-25.) We shall first consider whether the exemptions contained in section 2.09 deny equal protection or are invalid as special legislation. The provision at issue here does not "implicate a suspect or quasi-suspect classification, and accordingly the appropriate standard for determining the equal protection challengeunder the Illinois and Federal constitutions is whether the legislation bears a rational relationship to a legitimate governmental interest. (McDonald v. Board of Election Commissioners (1969), 394 U.S. 802, 809, 22 L. Ed. 2d 739, 745, 89 S. Ct. 1404, 1408; Illinois Housing Development Authority v. Van Meter (1980), 82 Ill. 2d 116, 119-20.) This standard applies as well to the additional argument that the provisionviolate[s] the State constitutional prohibition against special legislation (Jenkins v. Wu (1984), 102 Ill. 2d 468, 477-78; Anderson v. Wagner (1979), 79 Ill. 2d 295, 315), for although the guarantee of equal protection and the prohibition against special legislation are not identical, they are 'generally Judged by the same standard' (Chicago National League Ball Club, Inc. v. Thompson (1985), 108 Ill. 2d 357, 368)." Bernier v. Burris (1986), 113 Ill. 2d 219, 228.

As we have noted, the legislature has chosen in section 2.09 to exempt from coverage of the Act three general categories of day-care centers: those that are operated by or in conjunction with schools or that come within the authority of the State Board of Education, those that provide a temporary or short-term service or serve a transient population, and those that are conducted on Federal government premises. The validity of the classifications drawn by the latter two groups does not require extended Discussion. It was well within the legislature's province to determine that programs serving a transient population or providing short-term or temporary care, by their very nature, did not pose the problems that prompted the decision to regulate the subject in the first place. The legislature may choose to address what it perceives to be the more pressing aspects of a particular problem. (Williamson v. Lee Optical of Oklahoma, Inc. (1955), 348 U.S. 483, 489, 99 L. Ed. 563, 573, 75 S. Ct. 461, 465; Chicago National League Ball Club, Inc. v. Thompson (1985), 108 Ill. 2d 357, 366-67.) With respect to the exemption for day-care programs conducted on Federal premises, the legislature correctly determined that State regulation would be incompatible with the broad immunity from State regulation enjoyed by Federal installations and activities under the supremacy clause, in the absence of an expression of a contrary intent by Congress. See U.S. Const., art. VI, cl. 2; Hancock v. Train (1976), 426 U.S. 167, 48 L. Ed. 2d 555, 96

S. Ct. 2006.

The characteristic common to the remaining group of exemptions, those contained in sections 2.09(a), (b), (c), (d), and (i), is that they are operated by or in conjunction with schools or that they come directly within the authority of the State Board of Education. Several considerations are at work here. Subsections (b), (c), and (d) refer expressly to programs that are registered with or recognized by the State Board of Education. With respect to those programs, then, the legislature has apparently chosen to divide between the State Board of Education and the Department of Children and Family Services administrative responsibility over day-care programs that are allied with schools and those that are not. That the State Board of Education has not itself promulgated a detailed set of regulations governing day-care activities is no impediment to recognizing the validity of that classification. The State Board ...


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