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Board of Education of Woodland Community Consolidated School District 50 v. The Illinois State Board of Education

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Sixth Division

March 23, 2018

THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF WOODLAND COMMUNITY CONSOLIDATED SCHOOL DISTRICT 50 and THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF FREMONT SCHOOL DISTRICT 79, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
THE ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION and THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF PRAIRIE CROSSING CHARTER SCHOOL, Defendants-Appellants.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 15 CH 07942 Honorable Neil H. Cohen, Judge, Presiding.

          PRESIDING JUSTICE HOFFMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Cunningham and Connors concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          HOFFMAN PRESIDING JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 The defendants, the Illinois State Board of Education (State Board) and the Board of Directors of Prairie Crossing Charter School, appeal from an order of the circuit court granting the joint motion for summary judgment in this declaratory judgment action filed by the plaintiffs, the Board of Education of Woodland Community Consolidated School District 50 (Woodland) and the Board of Education of Fremont School District 79 (Fremont) (collectively referred to as the School Districts). The defendants also appeal from the circuit court's denial of the State Board's cross-motion for summary judgment. For the reasons which follow, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

         ¶ 2 The following factual recitation is undisputed. Woodland and Fremont are bodies politic organized and existing under article 10 of the School Code (105 ILCS 5/art. 10 (West 2012)). Prairie Crossing Charter School (Prairie Crossing) is a charter school organized and existing pursuant to the Charter Schools Law (id. § 27A-1 et seq.).

         ¶ 3 Over the objection of the School Districts, the State Board authorized the creation of Prairie Crossing in 1998, entitling it to enroll students residing within the boundaries of the School Districts. Pursuant to statute, a charter school which is authorized over the objection of a local school district is funded by withholding funds otherwise due to the local school district(s) within which the pupils attending the charter school reside and paying those funds directly to the charter school. Id. § 27A-9(f).

         ¶ 4 From the inception of Prairie Crossing in 1999 until the 2015-16 school year, the State Board included pupils attending Prairie Crossing within the pupil enrollment of either Woodland or Fremont, depending upon the pupils' residences, in calculating the sums to be deducted from the funds otherwise due the School Districts and paid to Prairie Crossing. However, in December 2014, Woodland and Fremont were notified by the State Board that, beginning with funding for the 2015-16 school year, pupils attending Prairie Crossing would no longer be included within the pupil enrollment of either Woodland or Fremont for purposes of calculating the funds to be diverted and paid to Prairie Crossing. The effect of the change would result in more funds being withheld from both Woodland and Fremont than would have been withheld and paid to Prairie Crossing under the funding formula employed in prior years. In addition, the State Board notified the School Districts that it had recalculated the amount that should have been withheld from their general state aid and paid to Prairie Crossing for fiscal years 2013 and 2014 using the revised funding formula. According to the State Board's recalculation, an additional $278, 269 should have been withheld from Woodland and paid to Prairie Crossing and an additional $46, 905 should have been withheld from Fremont and paid to Prairie Crossing. Although the retroactive application of the State Board's revised funding formula resulted in a determination that Prairie Crossing was underfunded by $325, 174, the State Board and Prairie Crossing settled the underfunding for $200, 000, of which $170, 000 was attributed to Woodland and $30, 000 was attributed to Fremont. The State Board advised Woodland and Fremont that it would be withholding the amount of the settlement attributable to each from their general state aid in equal installments over the next four years.

         ¶ 5 In May 2015, the School Districts filed the instant action against both the State Board and the Board of Directors of Prairie Crossing Charter School. In their amended complaint, the School Districts sought a judicial declaration that students residing within their respective boundaries and attending Prairie Crossing shall be counted as attending the school district in which they reside for purposes of calculating the sums to be deducted from the funds otherwise due to them from the State Board and paid to Prairie Crossing. They also sought a judicial declaration that the State Board lacked the statutory authority to recalculate the general state aid to which they were entitled for previous fiscal years and recoup any overpayment from the future general State aid to which they are otherwise entitled.

         ¶ 6 Following discovery, the School Districts and the State Board filed cross-motions for summary judgment. On October 7, 2016, the circuit court denied the State Board's motion for summary judgment and granted summary judgment in favor of the School Districts, declaring that pupils attending Prairie Crossing shall be counted as attending the school district in which they reside for purposes of calculating the sums to be deducted from the funds otherwise due the School Districts and paid to Prairie Crossing. In addition, the circuit court found that the State Board lacked the statutory authority to recoup from the School Districts any funds which it paid to Prairie Crossing as a result of its recalculation of the funds to which Prairie Crossing was entitled for prior fiscal years. Both the State Board and Prairie Crossing filed timely notices of appeal which this court consolidated for disposition.

         ¶ 7 "Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Virginia Surety Co. v. Northern Insurance Co. of New York, 224 Ill.2d 550, 556 (2007). When, as in this case, parties file cross-motions for summary judgment, they agree that no genuine issues of material fact exist, and the resolution of the case is purely a question of law. Founders Insurance Co. v. Munoz, 237 Ill.2d 424, 432 (2010). We review the entry of summary judgment de novo. A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois, Inc. v. Quinn, 2011 IL 110611, ¶ 22.

         ¶ 8 This appeal concerns statutory interpretation. As such, we are presented with questions of law which we resolve de novo. People ex rel. Madigan v. Illinois Commerce Comm'n, 231 Ill.2d 370, 380 (2008). Our primary objective is to give effect to the legislature's intent, which is best indicated by the plain and ordinary language of the statutes themselves. Citizens Opposing Pollution v. ExxonMobil Coal U.S.A., 2012 IL 111286, ¶ 23. We give words their plain and obvious meaning unless the legislative act changes that meaning. Svithiod Singing Club v. McKibbin, 381 Ill. 194, 197 (1942). In determining legislative intent, we also consider the object to be attained by the act. Hartney Fuel Oil Co. v. Hamer, 2013 IL 115130, ¶ 25.

         ¶ 9 In giving meaning to the words and clauses of a statute, no part should be rendered superfluous. Standard Mutual Insurance Co. v. Lay, 2013 IL 114617, ¶ 26. When the language of a statute is clear and unambiguous, we give effect to the plain and ordinary meaning of the language without resort to other tools of statutory construction (Raintree Homes, Inc. v. Village of Long Grove, 209 Ill.2d 248, 255 (2004)), as it is not our function to rewrite a statute or depart from its plain language by reading into the statute exceptions, limitations, or conditions not expressed therein (People ex rel. Birkett v. Dockery, 235 Ill.2d 73, 81 (2009)). "If further construction of a statute is necessary, a court may consider similar and related enactments." Hartney Fuel Oil Co., 2013 IL 115130, ¶ 25. Statutory provisions should be read in concert and harmonized. People v. Rinehart, 2012 IL 111719, ¶ 26.

         ¶ 10 The two statutes at issue in this appeal are the School Code and the Charter Schools Law. The specific question to be answered is whether pupils residing within the boundaries of a local school district but attending a charter school should be counted as pupils attending the local school district for purposes of calculating the sums to be deducted from the funds otherwise due the local school district and paid to the charter school.

         ¶ 11 Where, as in this case, a charter school is authorized by the State over the objection of the local school district(s), an amount equal to the funds to which a charter school is entitled is diverted by the State Board from funds otherwise due the local school district(s) and delivered to the charter school. 105 ILCS 5/27A-9(f) (West 2012). Funding of a charter school, such as Prairie Crossing, which is organized other than by referendum is determined by agreement between the local school board and the charter school. However, in no event shall the funding be less than 75% or more than 125% of the local school ...


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