Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County No. 10MR169 Honorable Patrick J. Londrigan, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Turner
JUSTICE TURNER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Appleton and Cook concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 In March 2010, plaintiffs, Paul Carr and Ron Newell, filed a complaint against defendants, Christopher Koch, State Superintendent of Education; the State Board of Education (Board); and Patrick J. Quinn, Governor of the State of Illinois, asking the trial court to declare the Illinois education funding system found in section 18-8.05 of the School Code (105 ILCS 5/18-8.05 (West 2010)) in violation of the equal-protection clause of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 2). In January 2011, the trial court granted defendants' motion to dismiss.
¶ 2 On appeal, plaintiffs argue the trial court erred in granting defendants' motion to dismiss. We affirm.
¶ 4 Initially, a review of the Illinois education funding system and the Illinois Learning Standards is necessary to put plaintiffs' complaint in the proper context for this appeal.
¶ 5 A. Illinois Education Funding
¶ 6 Public schools in Illinois receive revenue from both local and state sources. The principal sources of local revenue for education are (1) the corporate personal property replacement tax (35 ILCS 5/201(c), (d) (West 2010)) and the property tax revenues imposed and collected by local school districts (105 ILCS 5/17-2 (West 2010)). The State supplements local education funds with state money under three broad programs, including (1) general state financial aid (105 ILCS 5/18-8.05(A)(1) (West 2010)), (2) supplemental general state financial aid (105 ILCS 5/18-8.05(A)(2) (West 2010)), and (3) categorical grants for specific purposes such as preschool programs (105 ILCS 5/2-3.71 (West 2010)) and driver-education programs (105 ILCS 5/27-24.4 (West 2010)).
¶ 7 General state financial aid is calculated in accordance with a formula codified in section 18-8.05 of the School Code (105 ILCS 5/18-8.05 (West 2010)). Each year, the State establishes a dollar figure "representing the minimum level of per pupil financial support that should be available to provide for the basic education of each pupil." 105 ILCS 5/18-8.05(B)(1) (West 2010). This figure is called the Foundation Level. For the 2009-10 school year, the State set the Foundation Level at $6,119. 105 ILCS 5/18-8.05(B)(3) (West 2010).
¶ 8 Because general state financial aid is intended to supplement local resources devoted to public education, the State calculates what percentage of the Foundation Level each school district can achieve without state aid. This is done by identifying each district's "Available Local Resources," which "shall include a calculated dollar amount representing local school district revenues from local property taxes and from Corporate Personal Property Replacement Taxes, expressed on the basis of pupils in Average Daily Attendance." 105 ILCS 5/18-8.05(D)(1) (West 2010). In determining local property tax revenue, the Board multiplies the equalized assessed value of all taxable property in each school district by 3% for districts that include both elementary and high schools, 2.3% for districts with only elementary and middle schools, and 1.05% for districts with only a high school. 105 ILCS 5/18-8.05(D)(3) (West 2010). That number is then divided by the district's average daily attendance figure. The corporate personal property replacement tax divided by the average daily attendance figure is added to the local property tax revenues per pupil to determine the district's Available Local Resources. 105 ILCS 5/18-8.05(D)(4) (West 2010).
¶ 9 If a school district's Available Local Resources per pupil are less than 93% of the Foundation Level, the State provides general state financial aid sufficient to lift the district to Foundation Level funding for each of its students. 105 ILCS 5/18-8.05(E)(2) (West 2010). If Available Local Resources are between 93% and 175% of the Foundation Level, the State provides general state financial aid on a sliding scale from 7% of the Foundation Level per student to school districts with Available Local Resources closer to 93% and 5% of the Foundation Level per student to districts with Available Local Resources close to 175% of the Foundation Level. 105 ILCS 5/18-8.05(E)(3) (West 2010). If Available Local Resources exceed 175% of the Foundation Level, the State provides general financial aid in the form of a grant of $218 per pupil. 105 ILCS 5/18-8.05(E)(4) (West 2010).
¶ 10 B. State and Federal Learning Standards
¶ 11 Adopted by the Board in 1997, the Illinois Learning Standards "define what all students in all Illinois public schools should know and be able to do in the seven core areas as a result of their elementary and secondary schooling." http://www.isbe.state.il.us/ils/ (last visited October 3, 2011). The seven core areas include English language arts, mathematics, science, social science, physical development and health, fine arts, and foreign language. http://www.isbe.state.il.us/ils/pdf/ils_introduction.pdf (last visited October 3, 2011). The standards apply to all students because "[m]aintaining high ...