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09/29/94 COMMITTEE FOR EDUCATIONAL RIGHTS v. JIM

September 29, 1994

THE COMMITTEE FOR EDUCATIONAL RIGHTS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
JIM EDGAR, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS; ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION; AND ROBERT LEININGER, STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Thomas J. O'Brien, Judge Presiding.

Rehearing Denied November 2, 1994.

Cahill, Hoffman, Theis

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cahill

JUSTICE CAHILL delivered the opinion of the court:

Plaintiffs challenge the way public education is financed in Illinois. The complaint addresses differences in taxable wealth among school districts and the effect of those differences on the ability of poorer districts to offer students benefits and educational opportunities equal to those available to students in wealthier districts. Under the Illinois school funding scheme the legislature establishes a minimum expenditure for each child in the State. To the extent local resources fail to generate enough funds, the State provides supplementary aid based upon a complex formula that is rereckoned and adjusted at each session of the General Assembly.

The questions presented on review are whether Illinois' statutory scheme for financing public education violates the education article (Ill. Const. 1970, art. X, § 1) and the equal protection clause (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 2) of the Illinois Constitution of 1970. The constitutionality of the statutory scheme applied to economically disadvantaged students is also challenged.

The Illinois public school system is administered under the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 122, par. 1-1 et seq.). Three sources combine to fund public education: federal aid, state aid, and local property taxes. Because property values differ from district to district, the money raised from local taxes and spent on each student varies depending on the district's wealth, the tax referendum decision of voters, and the policy decisions made by local school boards as they allocate money to pay for programs. Discretionary local spending creates spending differences among the districts which are only partly offset by the State's equalization aid and other assistance.

The plaintiffs are 37 school districts in Illinois, 11 parents, 11 students, and the Committee for Educational Rights. They sought a declaratory judgment that the School Code violated the Illinois Constitution of 1970. The trial court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a cause of action under section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 110, par. 2-615). We affirm.

To withstand a motion to dismiss, the allegations of a complaint must state a cause of action upon which relief may be granted. ( Burdinie v. Village of Glendale Heights (1990), 139 Ill. 2d 501, 565 N.E.2d 654, 152 Ill. Dec. 121.) When the legal sufficiency of a complaint is challenged, we accept as true all well pleaded facts, but do not accept Conclusions unsupported by facts in the complaint. Burdinie, 139 Ill. 2d at 505, 565 N.E.2d at 657.

The plaintiffs first argue the School Code violates the education article of the Illinois Constitution "to the extent that the Statutory Scheme of School Finance fails to correct the differences in spending and educational services resulting from differences in local wealth."

Section 1 of the education article provides:

"Section 1. Goal -- Free Schools

A fundamental goal of the People of the State is the educational development of all persons to the limits of their capacities.

The State shall provide for an efficient system of high quality public educational institutions and services. Education in public schools through the secondary level shall be free. There may be such other ...


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