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03/31/94 MARLENE ESPINOSA v. BOARD TRUSTEES

March 31, 1994

MARLENE ESPINOSA, JONDRALYN FARROW, MICHAEL ADAMS, MAUREEN KELLY, BRENT FULLER, DESALENE JONES, LISA MOORE, MARCIA GOLDMAN AND FLORENCE GREENSPAN, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT NO. 508, COUNTY OF COOK, STATE OF ILLINOIS, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Robert D. Ericsson, Judge Presiding.

Theis, Cahill, Johnson

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Theis

JUSTICE THEIS delivered the opinion of the court:

The plaintiffs, Chicago residents who had previously registered at one or more of the City Colleges of Chicago, brought this action against defendant, the Board of Trustees of Community College District No. 508, to restore more than 500 classes which were eliminated from the academic schedule for the 1992 fall semester. The circuit court dismissed all counts of the complaint for failure to state a cause of action. The plaintiffs now appeal from dismissal of three of those counts. For the reasons presented below, we affirm.

The defendant is the governing board of a public community college district that operates seven community colleges in Chicago pursuant to the Illinois Public Community College Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 122, par. 103-1 et seq.) The community colleges governed by the defendant are collectively known as the City Colleges of Chicago. In May 1992, the defendant decided to eliminate certain expenditures during the upcoming fiscal year in order to help resolve the budget deficit of the City Colleges of Chicago. The appropriations that were cut by the defendant would have provided funds for overtime pay for full-time faculty members as well as funds to hire part-time lecturers.

On September 30, 1992, two groups of plaintiffs filed a six-count, class action complaint on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated individuals. One group included students residing in Chicago who had previously enrolled in classes at one or more of the City Colleges of Chicago and were unable to enroll in one or more classes as a result of the budget reduction. The other group consisted of Chicago taxpayers who alleged that the budgetary decision was arbitrary and would result in a loss of revenue in future years that would have to be made up by the levy of additional taxes on them.

The plaintiffs sought to enjoin the defendant from implementing its budgetary decision to eliminate $4.6 million in appropriations from its fiscal year 1992 budget. The plaintiffs also requested that the defendant be required to provide classes to all qualified students applying for admission, to the extent that the City Colleges had space available.

On December 17, 1992, the circuit court dismissed count I pursuant to section 2-619 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure and counts II through VI under section 2-615. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 110, pars. 2-615, 2-619.) On January 8, 1993, the plaintiffs waived their right to file an amended complaint and moved for entry of a final judgment. That same day, the circuit court entered an order amending the prior order of December 17 to a dismissal with prejudice.

The plaintiffs now appeal from the dismissal of counts II, III and VI. In count II, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendant violated section 3-17 of the Illinois Public Community College Act by failing to offer a sufficient number of classes to fill all available classroom space. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 122, par. 103-17.) Count III alleged that the defendant violated article X of the Illinois Constitution by failing to provide for an efficient system of high quality public educational institutions and services. Finally, in count VI, the taxpayer plaintiffs alleged that the defendant's budgetary decision was "arbitrary" and would result in additional real estate taxes to be borne by the plaintiffs and others similarly situated.

Discussion

When a pleading is challenged by a motion to dismiss, all well-pleaded facts in the complaint are taken as true. ( DiBenedetto v. Flora Township (1992), 153 Ill. 2d 66, 69, 605 N.E.2d 571, 573.) The reviewing court must determine whether the allegations of the complaint, when viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, are sufficient to state a cause of action upon which relief may be granted. ( DiBenedetto, 153 Ill. 2d at 69-70, 605 N.E.2d at 573.) A cause of action should not be dismissed on the pleadings unless no set of facts can be proved which will entitle a plaintiff to recover. Burdinie v. Village of Glendale Heights (1990), 139 Ill. 2d 501, 504, 565 N.E.2d 654, 657; Safeway Insurance Co. v. American Arbitration Ass'n (1993), 247 Ill. App. 3d 355, 359, 617 N.E.2d 312, 316.

Count II: Illinois Public Community College Act

In count II of their complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendant violated the Illinois Public Community College Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 122, par. 103-1 et seq.) by reducing the number of classes being offered in the fall semester of 1992. In support, they cite the following passage from section 3-17 of that Act, entitled "Admission of students":

"The community college districts shall admit all students qualified to complete any one of their programs including general education, transfer, occupational, technical, and terminal, as long as space for effective instruction is available. After entry, the college shall counsel and distribute the students among its programs ...


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