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Reece v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago

March 14, 2002

THOMAS H. REECE, NORMA J. WHITE, PAMELYN MASSARSKY, MICHAEL J. WILLIAMS, MELVIN WILSON, AND CLIFFORD WAGNER, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO; DANIEL W. HYNES, COMPTROLLER OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS; RONALD J. GIDWITZ, CHAIRMAN OF THE ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION; SANDRA M. PELLEGRINO, VICE-CHAIR OF THE ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION; MARILYN MCCONACHIE, DAVID GOMEZ, CONNIE ROGERS, WILLIAM E. HILL, VINCENT J. SERRITELLA, JANET STEINER, BOARD MEMBERS OF THE ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION; ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION; AND GLENN W. MCGEE, ILLINOIS STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 00-CH-5481 Honorable Robert V. Boharic, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Theis

UNPUBLISHED

Plaintiffs Thomas H. Reece, Norma J. White, Pamelyn Massarsky, Michael J. Williams, Melvin Wilson, and Clifford Wagner (collectively, plaintiffs) brought this action against defendants Board of Education of the City of Chicago (Chicago Board of Education), Daniel W. Hynes, Ronald J. Gidwitz, Sandra M. Pellegrino, Marilyn McConachie, David Gomez, Connie Rogers, William E. Hill, Vincent J. Serritella, Janet Steiner, Illinois State Board of Education, and Glenn W. McGee (collectively, defendants), alleging that section 2-3.25g of the Illinois School Code (School Code) (105 ILCS 5/2-3.25g (West 1996)), which allows school districts to petition the State Board of Education for a waiver or modification of the School Code's mandates, is unconstitutional. They sought to enjoin the disbursement of funds to the Chicago Board of Education, pursuant to section 11-301 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/11-301 (West 2000)), until it complied with all mandates of the School Code, including the requirement of daily physical education. On the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court granted defendants' motion, finding section 2-3.25g constitutional and denied plaintiffs' motion.

Plaintiffs now appeal, arguing that (1) the physical education curriculum is protected from waiver by section 34-8.14(3) of the School Code (105 ILCS 5/34-8.14(3) (West 1996)); (2) section 2-3.25g is unconstitutional because it modifies existing law without following procedural constitutional formalities; (3) section 2-3.25g constitutes an unconstitutional legislative veto; and (4) section 2-3.25g is an impermissible delegation of legislative authority to school boards. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

Public Act 89-3 (Pub. Act 89-3, §5, eff. February 27, 1995) amended section 2-3.25g to provide a procedure whereby school districts may petition the State Board of Education for a waiver of most School Code mandates where "necessary to stimulate innovation or improve student performance." 105 ILCS 5/2-3.25g (West 1996). Under section 2-3.25g, waiver applications must demonstrate that the intent of the mandate can be addressed in a specific plan for improved student performance and school improvement. Within 15 days after approval by the local board of education following a public hearing, the application is submitted to the State Board of Education. 105 ILCS 5/2-3.25g (West 1996). The State Board reviews the applications and requests for completeness and compiles them in reports to be filed with the General Assembly before each May 1 and October 1. The General Assembly may disapprove the report of the State Board in whole or in part within 30 calendar days after each house of the legislature next convenes by adoption of a resolution by a record vote of the majority of the members of each house. If the General Assembly fails to disapprove any waiver request within such 30-day period, the waiver is deemed granted. A waiver remains in effect for up to five school years and may be renewed upon application by the school district. 105 ILCS 5/2-3.25g (West 1996).

In 1997, the Chicago Board of Education applied for a waiver pursuant to this section, for the eleventh and twelfth grades only, from the mandate in section 27-6 of the School Code requiring all students to engage in daily physical education. 105 ILCS 5/27-6 (West 1996). It was submitted in connection with the Chicago public schools "High School Redesign Project" to improve academic performance in Chicago high schools following the General Assembly's conclusion that the public schools were suffering an "education crisis." 105 ILCS 5/34-3.3 (West 1996).

The High School Redesign Project created a new two-year foreign language requirement and raised the mathematics requirement from two years to three and the science requirement from one year to three years. However, the project reduced the physical education requirement and mandated physical education courses for only the first two years of high school. Juniors and seniors could take physical education as an elective.

The Chicago Board of Education pursued the waiver in compliance with the procedural requirements of this statute, including providing notice and holding a public hearing. After approving the proposed waiver application, the Chicago Board of Education forwarded it to the State Board of Education. The State Board then determined that the application was complete and included it with waivers from other school districts in a report filed with the General Assembly. Following receipt and consideration of the State Board of Education's report, the General Assembly did not disapprove the Chicago Board of Education's waiver and, thus, the waiver was granted.

Before the Chicago Board of Education could implement its plan following approval of the waiver, a group of plaintiffs including several taxpayers, physical education teachers, a teachers' union, and parents of Chicago public school students filed the first lawsuit against the Chicago Board of Education. They sought a declaratory judgment that section 2-3.25g was invalid and an injunction preventing enforcement of the waiver. The trial court declared section 2-3.25g to be invalid and granted the injunction. The Chicago Board of Education appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, which found that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the action and dismissed the appeal, but did not address the constitutionality of section 2-3.25g. Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1 v. Board of Education of City of Chicago, 189 Ill. 2d 200, 724 N.E.2d 914 (2000).

Another group of plaintiffs then brought the present action, alleging that section 2-3.25g was unconstitutional and asked the trial court to enjoin the disbursement of public funds to the Chicago Board of Education until it complied with the statutory requirement of daily physical education. All parties' then filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The trial court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment and denied plaintiffs' motion, holding section 2-3.25g constitutional. Plaintiffs then filed this timely appeal.

Summary judgment is appropriate where the pleadings, depositions, admissions, and affidavits on file present no genuine issue of material fact and show that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. 735 ILCS 5/2-1005(c) (West 1998); Jones v. Chicago HMO Ltd., 191 Ill. 2d 278, 291, 730 N.E.2d 1119, 1127 (2000). When parties file cross-motions for summary judgment, they agree that no material issue of fact exists and that only a question of law is involved. Subway Restaurants of Bloomington-Normal, Inc. v. Topinka, 322 Ill. App. 3d 376, 381, 751 N.E.2d 203, 208 (2001). In such a case, we review the trial court's decision de novo and may affirm on any ground present in the record. Subway Restaurants of Bloomington-Normal, Inc., 322 Ill. App. 3d at 381, 751 N.E.2d at 208; McDonald's Corp. v. American Motorists Ins. Co., 321 Ill. App. 3d 972, 978, 748 N.E.2d 771, 777 (2001).

Plaintiffs first contend that the physical education curriculum is protected from waiver by section 34-8.14 of the School Code, which provides that statutes, regulations, rules, and policy provisions concerning several areas, including health and safety, are not waivable. 105 ILCS 5/34-8.14(3) (West 1996). Plaintiffs argue that the physical education curriculum is based upon health and safety concerns, comparing the section 27-6 mandate of daily physical education to other health-related sections. Defendants respond that section 2-3.25g contains its own exclusions from waiver and argue that the non-waivable provisions in section 34-8.14 are not related to section 2-3.25g.

The primary rule of statutory construction is to ascertain and give effect to the legislature's intent. Burger v. Lutheran General Hospital, 198 Ill. 2d 21, 40, 759 N.E.2d 533, 545 (2001). The best evidence of legislative intent is the language of the statute itself, which must be given its plain and ordinary meaning. Lulay v. Lulay, 193 Ill. 2d 455, 466, 739 N.E.2d 521, 527 (2000). Words and phrases should not be construed in isolation, but must be interpreted in light of other relevant provisions in the statute. Primeco Personal Communications, L.P. v. I.C.C., 196 Ill. 2d 70, 87-88, 750 N.E.2d 202, 212 (2001). The court must analyze the statute as a whole, considering each section in connection with every other section. Bruso v. Alexian Brothers Hospital, 178 Ill. 2d 445, 451-52, 687 N.E.2d 1014, 1016 (1997). Where the statutory language is clear and unambiguous, resort to other tools of statutory interpretation is unnecessary. Burger, 198 Ill. 2d at 40, 759 N.E.2d at 545.

In a case of first impression, we will construe sections 34-8.14 and 2-3.25g together and in light of their surrounding statutes. Section 34-8.14 applies only to cities with a population over 500,000 while section 2-3.25g applies statewide and concerns the powers of the State Board of Education. Additionally, section 34-8.14 is located within the Chicago Learning Zone Implementation Law. 105 ILCS 5/34-8.6 (West 1996). The General Assembly created this law "to accelerate the process of Chicago school reform" by adopting "the overriding philosophy that attendance centers [schools] should be empowered to develop models most appropriate to their situations." 105 ILCS 5/34-8.7 (West 1996). Learning Zone schools are entitled to operate without state laws and regulations or board rules and policies. 105 ILCS 5/34-8.7 (West 1996). However, section 34-8.14 prohibits Learning Zone schools from waiving rules and regulations concerning certain issues, including health and safety, student and staff civil rights, performance and financial audits, the Freedom of Information Act (5 ILCS 140/1 et seq. (West 1996)), and collective bargaining agreements. 105 ILCS 5/34-8.14 (West 1996). Thus, the clear language of section 34-8.14 dictates that it pertains only to Learning Zone schools and is separate and distinct from the waiver provision in section 2-3.25g. We find that section 34-8.14 does not apply to section ...


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