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J. Lyell Clarke, Jim Donovan v. Community Unit School District 303

June 20, 2012

J. LYELL CLARKE, JIM DONOVAN,
RANDEE DONOVAN, ANTHONY T.
EMRALINO, JR., JENNIFER GUERRERO, MARC GUERRI, BETH HEILIGER, ELIZABETH LARSON, ASHLEY MURPHY, GREG SENGSTOCK, JILL SENGSTOCK, KIM SCHULZE, STEVEN SCHULZE, LARRY A. NORGAARD, TERRY SUESSEN, AMY SUESSEN, AND PAT JENSEN,
PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT 303,
DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County. No. 11-CH-1250 Honorable Thomas E. Mueller, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McLAREN

JUSTICE McLAREN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Presiding Justice Jorgensen and Justice Schostok concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 Plaintiffs appeal the trial court's order granting defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings. On appeal, plaintiffs argue that the trial court erred by granting defendant judgment on the pleadings, because: (1) there were numerous material facts in dispute; (2) the regulatory framework demands compliance with the Illinois School Code (School Code) (105 ILCS 5/1-1 et seq. (West 2010)) and its regulations; (3) defendant cannot use its general powers to violate specific provisions of the School Code; (4) plaintiffs' due process claim was adequately pled; (5) they have an implied right of action under the School Code; (6) they have a valid claim to a writ of certiorari; and (7) they are entitled to injunctive relief. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.

¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 3 In January 2002, the federal government implemented the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) (20 U.S.C. § 6301 et seq. (Supp. I 2001), requiring states to establish and enforce statewide learning standards and to achieve adequate yearly progress (AYP) toward those standards, as measured by federally approved standardized tests. See 20 U.S.C. § 6311 (Supp. II 2002). To comply with the NCLB, the Illinois General Assembly enacted Public Act 93-470, § 5 (eff. Aug. 8, 2003), which amended sections of and added sections to the School Code.

¶ 4 Schools that fail to meet AYP criteria for two consecutive years are placed on "academic early warning status for the next school year" and they remain on such status if they fail to meet AYP criteria for a third consecutive year. 105 ILCS 5/2-3.25d(a) (West 2010). After four years of failing to meet AYP criteria, schools are placed on "initial academic watch status." Id. If a school is on academic watch status for five consecutive years, the district "must develop a school restructuring plan for the school that must be approved by the school board ***." Id.

¶ 5 The School Code also provides:

"A school district that has one or more schools on academic early warning or academic watch status shall prepare a revised School Improvement Plan [SIP] or amendments thereto setting forth the district's expectations for removing each school from academic early warning or academic watch status and for improving student performance in the affected school or schools." Id.

School districts that fail to make reasonable efforts to implement a SIP could suffer the loss of state funds or be subject to other state intervention. 105 ILCS 5/2-3.25f(a), (b) (West 2010).

¶ 6 Regarding the implementation of a SIP, section 2-3.25d(c) of the School Code provides:

"(c) All revised School and District Improvement Plans shall be developed in collaboration with parents, staff in the affected school or school district, and outside experts. All revised School and District Improvement Plans shall be developed, submitted, and monitored pursuant to rules adopted by the State Board of Education. The revised Improvement Plan shall address measurable outcomes for improving student performance so that such performance meets adequate yearly progress criteria as specified by the State Board of Education. All school districts required to revise a School Improvement Plan in accordance with this Section shall establish a peer review process for the evaluation of School Improvement Plans." 105 ILCS 5/2-3.25d(c) (West 2010).

¶ 7 Title 23, section 1.85, of the Illinois Administrative Code provides in relevant part:

"[Section] 2-3.25d of the School Code requires each district to revise the school improvement plans of any of its schools that are placed on academic early warning or academic watch status and to revise the district's improvement plan if it is placed on academic early warning or academic watch status. Similarly, restructuring plans are required for schools that remain on academic watch status after a fifth annual calculation. As used in this Section, 'NCLB' refers to Public Law 107-110, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (20 USC 6301 et seq.).

a) A revised school improvement plan shall be submitted to the local school board (and to the local school council in a district operating under Article 34 of the School Code) no later than three months after the district's receipt of notification regarding the school's status. During the 45-day period following its submission to the local board and prior to the board's final approval, each plan shall undergo a peer review process designed by the district.

1) In school districts with a population of 500,000 or fewer, revised school improvement plans shall be required to cover the two school years following the assessment necessitating the plan and to:

A) incorporate strategies based on scientifically based research and an analysis of State and local assessment data and other information that will strengthen the core academic subjects in the school and address the specific academic areas in which the school's performance has been deficient (NCLB, Section 1116(b)(3)(A)(i));

B) include information about the extent to which all students in the grade levels chosen by the district pursuant to Section 2-3.63 of the School Code are achieving in the fundamental learning areas;

C) adopt policies and practices concerning the school's core academic subjects that have the greatest likelihood of ensuring that all subgroups enrolled in the school will meet the State's proficient level of achievement not later than the end of the 2013-14 school year, including:

i) specific, measurable steps to be taken,

ii) a timeline for these activities, and

iii) a budget for these activities (NCLB, Section ...


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