Committee for Educational Rights v. Edgar

Annotate this Case
NOTICE: Under Supreme Court Rule 367 a party has 21 days after the
filing of the opinion to request a rehearing. Also, opinions are
subject to modification, correction or withdrawal at anytime prior
to issuance of the mandate by the Clerk of the Court. Therefore,
because the following slip opinion is being made available prior to
the Court's final action in this matter, it cannot be considered
the final decision of the Court. The official copy of the following
opinion will be published by the Supreme Court's Reporter of
Decisions in the Official Reports advance sheets following final
action by the Court.

Docket No. 78198--Agenda 22--September 1995.
THE COMMITTEE FOR EDUCATIONAL RIGHTS et al., Appellants, v. JIM
EDGAR, Governor of the State of Illinois, et al., Appellees.
Opinion filed October 18, 1996.

JUSTICE NICKELS delivered the opinion of the court:
This appeal draws us into the sensitive and controversial area
of public school finance. The plaintiffs in this action are the
Committee for Educational Rights (which consists of more than 60
school districts associated pursuant to an intergovernmental
agreement), the boards of education of 37 school districts named
individually, and a number of students and their parents. The
defendants are Governor Jim Edgar, the State Board of Education and
State Superintendent of Education Joseph A. Spagnolo. Plaintiffs
brought this action in the circuit court of Cook County seeking a
declaratory judgment that the statutory scheme governing the
funding of public schools violates various provisions of the
Illinois Constitution of 1970. The trial court dismissed the
complaint and the appellate court affirmed. 267 Ill. App. 3d 18.
The appellate court issued a certificate of importance under
Supreme Court Rule 316 (155 Ill. 2d R. 316) giving rise to the
present appeal. We affirm the appellate court, which affirmed the
dismissal of plaintiffs' complaint.

BACKGROUND
We begin with a general and vastly simplified description of
those aspects of public school finance in Illinois that are germane
to this appeal. Public schools receive funds from various federal,
State and local sources. The controversy in the present case hinges
on the relationship between funding derived from local property
taxes and funds supplied by the State. Under the School Code (105
ILCS 5/1--1 et seq. (West 1994)) school districts are authorized to
levy property taxes for various school purposes up to specified
maximum rates. See, e.g., 105 ILCS 5/17--2, 34--53 (West 1994). The
voters of a school district may authorize higher property tax rates
by referendum, but even with such voter approval the School Code
places an upper limit on school property tax rates. 105 ILCS 5/17--
3, 17--4, 17--5, 34--53 (West 1994). Obviously, the amount which a
school district is able to raise through property taxes is
determined by the taxable property wealth within the district.
Wealthy districts--those with substantial taxable property wealth
per pupil--are able to raise more revenue per pupil at a given tax
rate than poor districts.
There are principally two categories of State financial
assistance which supplement local property tax revenues and other
local sources of funding. First, the State provides assistance to
school districts in the form of categorical grants for a variety of
specific purposes. See, e.g., 105 ILCS 5/2--3.51 (West 1994)
(reading improvement programs); 105 ILCS 5/2--3.65 (West 1994)
(arts programs); 105 ILCS 5/18--7 (West 1994) (teacher retirement
benefits); 105 ILCS 5/27--24.4 (West 1994) (driver education
programs); 105 ILCS 5/29--5 (West Supp. 1995) (student
transportation). School districts also receive distributions of
general state aid from the State's common school fund pursuant to
the formula set forth in section 18--8 of the School Code (105 ILCS
5/18--8 (West Supp. 1995)).
General state aid is distributed based on a weighted average
daily attendance (ADA) at schools within a particular district and
on the equalized assessed valuation (EAV) of property in the
district. The general state aid formula is designed to enable
districts with modest property tax bases to achieve a certain
minimum level of funding per pupil. This minimum funding level,
commonly known as the "foundation level," is computed by the State
Board of Education based on the amount available for distribution
from the common school fund. The foundation level represents a
hypothetical "guaranteed" dollar amount of taxable property wealth
per pupil (hereinafter, guaranteed EAV) (see 105 ILCS 5/18--
8(A)(5)(a) (West Supp. 1995)) multiplied by a specified tax rate
(hereinafter, foundation rate) (see 105 ILCS 5/18--8(A)(5)(d)(2)
(West Supp. 1995)). The amount of general state aid per pupil that
a particular district receives is calculated by subtracting the
district's EAV per weighted ADA pupil from the guaranteed EAV and
multiplying the difference by the foundation rate. The formula may
be expressed as follows: general state aid per weighted ADA pupil
= (guaranteed EAV district EAV per weighted ADA pupil) x
foundation rate. See 105 ILCS 5/18--8(A)(5)(d)(2) (West Supp.
1995). This formula is structured to provide that if a district
levies property taxes at exactly the foundation rate, the sum of
local revenues and general state aid will equal the foundation
level. In order to receive full state aid under this formula, the
district's local tax rates must equal or exceed a specified minimum
"qualifying" rate (which is lower than the foundation rate) but
the amount of aid received does not otherwise depend on the actual
local tax rates applied. See 105 ILCS 5/18--8(A)(5)(d)(1),
(A)(5)(d)(2) (West Supp. 1995). Thus, to receive the full amount of
general state aid the district must tax at or above the
"qualifying" rate. To achieve foundation level funding, the
district must tax at the foundation rate. Where a district's local
tax rate exceeds the foundation rate, the sum of local revenues and
general state aid will exceed the foundation level.
The above method of distributing general state aid only
applies in districts where the EAV per weighted ADA pupil is less
than 87% of the guaranteed EAV. 105 ILCS 5/18--8(A)(5)(e) (West
Supp. 1995). In wealthier districts, an alternative formula
applies. The minimum amount of general state aid under the
alternative formula is fixed at 7% of the foundation level. 105
ILCS 5/18--8(A)(5)(f) (West Supp. 1995).
In their five-count complaint, plaintiffs allege that under
the present financing scheme, vast differences in educational
resources and opportunities exist among the State's school
districts as a result of differences in local taxable property
wealth. During the 1989-90 school year, the average tax base in the
wealthiest 10% of elementary schools was over 13 times the average
tax base in the poorest 10%. For high school and unit school
districts, the ratios of the average tax bases in the wealthiest
and poorest districts were 8.1 to 1 and 7 to 1, respectively,
during the 1989-90 school year.
Plaintiffs allege in their complaint that the general state
aid formula does not effectively equalize funding among wealthy and
poor districts. While the general State aid formula ensures minimum
funding at the foundation level, the wealthiest districts are able
to raise funds through property taxes considerably in excess of the
foundation level. Moreover, the provision of a minimum grant--equal
to 7% of the foundation level--to even the wealthiest school
districts is counterequalizing.
Plaintiffs allege that disparities among wealthy and poor
districts are reflected in various measures of educational funding;
in several "key indicators" of educational quality (such as the
percentage of teachers with master's degrees, teacher experience,
teacher salaries, administrator salaries and pupil/administrator
ratios); and in a comparison of the facilities, resources and
course offerings in two neighboring school districts with
dramatically disparate tax bases. According to the complaint, these
disparities are attributable to variations in property wealth
rather than tax effort; on average, the poorest school districts
tax at higher rates than the wealthiest.
Based on these allegations, in counts I through III plaintiffs
seek a declaratory judgment that to the extent that the statutory
school finance scheme "fails to correct differences in spending and
educational services resulting from differences in [local taxable
property wealth]" the scheme violates our state constitution's
equal protection clause (count I), prohibition against special
legislation (count II) and education article (count III). Ill.
Const. 1970, art. I, 2; art. IV, 13; art. X, 1.
Counts IV and V of the complaint pertain to the educational
opportunities available to certain socio-economically disadvantaged
children who are at risk of academic failure (at-risk children).
Plaintiffs allege that at-risk children frequently exhibit
educational deficits and require early intervention in order to
succeed academically. Section 2--3.71 of the School Code (105 ILCS
5/2--3.71 (West 1994)) provides for a grant program administered by
the State Board of Education for the establishment of preschool
educational programs addressing the needs of at-risk children.
Plaintiffs allege that such programs are effective in correcting
the educational deficits that at-risk children suffer, but grants
under section 2--3.71 and other sources of funding are sufficient
to provide such programs for only a fraction of the children who
need them. Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that by failing
to provide sufficient funding for preschool educational programs,
the State's system for financing public education violates the
equal protection clause (count IV) and education article (count V)
of our state constitution.
The trial court dismissed plaintiffs' complaint for failure to
state a cause of action. The appellate court affirmed the judgment
of the circuit court and issued a certificate of importance
pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 316. With leave of this court, the
League of Women Voters of Illinois and the Mexican American Legal
Defense and Education Fund have jointly filed an amicus curiae
brief in support of plaintiffs. On appeal, plaintiffs do not
challenge the dismissal of their special legislation claim.
However, plaintiffs contend that the trial court erred in
dismissing their claims under the equal protection clause and the
education article.

ANALYSIS
I
We first consider the dismissal of plaintiffs' claims that the
statutory system for financing public schools violates the
education article of our state constitution. Section 1 of article
X of the Illinois Constitution of 1970 provides:
"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
free education as the General Assembly provides by law.
The State has the primary responsibility for
financing the system of public education." (Emphasis
added.) Ill. Const. 1970, art. X, 1.
Plaintiffs' challenge to the statutory system for financing
public schools is based on the emphasized language above. First,
plaintiffs contend that because the system produces vast
disparities in the level of funding and educational resources
available to various school districts based on differences in local
taxable property wealth, it is not "efficient" within the meaning
of the constitution. Second, plaintiffs argue that school districts
with low property tax bases are unable to provide a "high quality"
education to their students due to inadequate funding. Third,
plaintiffs contend that under the financing scheme, funding is
insufficient to provide a "high quality" education to at-risk
children.
Before proceeding, we note that plaintiffs' second argument is
essentially raised for the first time on appeal. While in count III
of their complaint plaintiffs allege that the quality of public
education is comparatively better in wealthier districts, as we
read the complaint there is no specific allegation that students
(other than at-risk students) in districts with low taxable
property wealth are deprived of a "high quality" education in
normative terms. Because the theory that poor districts provide a
normatively inadequate education was not raised in the trial court,
we could properly treat it as waived. See Eagan v. Chicago Transit
Authority, 158 Ill. 2d 527, 534 (1994) ("issues not raised in the
trial court may not be raised for the first time on appeal"). We
choose, however, to address the argument on the merits. The waiver
rule is a limitation on the parties and not the jurisdiction of the
courts. Herzog v. Lexington Township, 167 Ill. 2d 288, 300 (1995).
Moreover, a reviewing court may consider an issue not raised in the
trial court if the issue is one of law and is fully briefed and
argued by the parties. People ex rel. Daley v. Datacom Systems
Corp., 146 Ill. 2d 1, 27 (1991); Hux v. Raben, 38 Ill. 2d 223, 225
(1967). As will be seen, plaintiffs' argument regarding the quality
of education, in normative terms, presents questions of law
relative to the power of the courts to adjudicate such a claim. The
controlling questions have been sufficiently briefed and argued to
facilitate review on the merits. Furthermore, the questions
presented are of substantial public importance, and we believe the
public interest favors consideration of the merits. Accordingly, we
will consider this argument, along with those issues properly
preserved for review.

A
We first consider plaintiffs' argument that the present school
funding system is not "efficient" within the meaning of the
constitution because it produces disparities in educational
resources and services based on differences in local taxable
property wealth. In plaintiffs' view, the efficiency requirement
guarantees some measure of equality in educational funding and
opportunity. Plaintiffs deny that they seek absolute uniformity in
educational offerings or precisely equal spending for each pupil in
the State. Plaintiffs would apparently approve variations in
educational spending from district to district based on criteria
such as local differences in the costs of resources and special
educational needs in particular districts. However, plaintiffs
maintain that a school district's property wealth is "educationally
irrelevant" and is not a proper factor upon which to set the level
of resources available to the district.
The trial and appellate courts rejected plaintiffs' argument
that the efficiency requirement guarantees parity of educational
funding and opportunity. The trial court emphasized that the
framers of the 1970 Constitution had considered and rejected
specific proposals for a constitutional provision designed to
reduce funding disparities among districts by limiting the amount
of funds that could be raised by local property taxes. The
appellate court concluded that article X of the constitution "does
not mandate equal educational benefits and opportunities among the
State's school districts as the constitutionally required means of
establishing and maintaining an `efficient' system of free public
schools." 267 Ill. App. 3d at 22.
As this case turns upon the meaning of constitutional
language, a brief summary of the general principles of
constitutional interpretation may be helpful. The meaning of a
constitutional provision depends on the common understanding of the
citizens who, by ratifying the constitution, gave it life. League
of Women Voters v. County of Peoria, 121 Ill. 2d 236, 243 (1987);
Kalodimos v. Village of Morton Grove, 103 Ill. 2d 483, 492 (1984).
This understanding is best determined by referring to the common
meaning of the words used. League of Women Voters, 121 Ill. 2d at
243; Kalodimos, 103 Ill. 2d at 492-93. Where the language is
unambiguous, it will be given effect without resort to other aids
for construction. Baker v. Miller, 159 Ill. 2d 249, 257 (1994).
However, if after consulting the language of a provision, doubt
remains as to its meaning, it is appropriate to consult the debates
of the delegates to the constitutional convention to ascertain the
meaning they attached to the provision. League of Women Voters, 121
Ill. 2d at 243-44; Kalodimos, 103 Ill. 2d at 493.
"Efficient" has been defined as follows:
"1 : serving as or characteristic of an efficient
cause : causally productive : OPERANT *** 2 : marked by
ability to choose and use the most effective and least
wasteful means of doing a task or accomplishing a purpose
***." Webster's Third New International Dictionary 725
(1981).
This definition does not inherently compel the conclusion that
an "efficient system" of public schools necessarily involves
statewide parity of educational opportunity and resources. However,
we do not believe that the precise meaning of the word "efficient"
as used in section 1 of the education article is entirely clear and
free from doubt, or that "efficient" could not conceivably be
interpreted in the manner that plaintiffs claim. We note that the
Court of Appeals of Maryland determined that Maryland's
constitutional requirement that the General Assembly establish a
"thorough and efficient" system of free public schools was "on its
face *** plainly susceptible of more than one meaning." Hornbeck v.
Somerset County Board of Education, 295 Md. 597, 619, 458 A.2d 758,
770 (1983). In determining whether the "thorough and efficient"
provision required exact equality in per pupil funding and
expenditures among Maryland's school districts, the Hornbeck court
deemed it essential to consider the history underlying the
enactment of the provision. Hornbeck, 295 Md. at 619-20, 458 A.2d
at 770. Courts in other jurisdictions with similar constitutional
efficiency provisions have also looked to sources beyond the
language of the constitution to determine the meaning of those
provisions. See Rose v. Council for Better Education, Inc., 790 S.W.2d 186, 205-06 (Ky. 1989); Edgewood Independent School District
v. Kirby, 777 S.W.2d 391, 394-96 (Tex. 1989); Pauley v. Kelly, 162
W. Va. 672, 681-89, 255 S.E.2d 859, 866-69 (1979); see also Rose,
790 S.W.2d at 221 (Vance, J., dissenting) ("It is because of [the]
universal concern expressed by the delegates to the convention that
I conclude that the word `efficient' as used by them must include
not only its dictionary definition but must also be construed to
include the requirement of substantial equality of educational
opportunity"). We shall likewise consider the history underlying
the adoption of section 1 of the education article.
The education article of the 1970 Constitution originated as
a proposal submitted by the education committee of the Sixth
Illinois Constitutional Convention. 6 Record of Proceedings, Sixth
Illinois Constitutional Convention 227 (hereinafter cited as
Proceedings). At the outset, we note that an introductory passage
in the education committee's report on the proposed education
article states, "[t]he opportunity for an education, where the
state has undertaken to provide it, is a right which must be made
available to all on equal terms." 6 Proceedings 231. Considered in
isolation, this statement might lend some credence to plaintiffs'
position. However, this general statement of principle was not made
in reference to the efficiency requirement or any other specific
language in the proposed education article. Instead, as authority
for this proposition the education committee report cites the
landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 98 L. Ed. 873, 74 S. Ct. 686 (1954), which was, of course, based on
the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment of the
United States Constitution. As explained below, specific references
in the convention record to the efficiency requirement place the
concept in a significantly different light.
The constitutional requirement that the State provide for an
efficient system of high quality educational institutions and
services corresponds to section 1 of article VIII of the 1870
Constitution, which stated, "The general assembly shall provide a
thorough and efficient system of free schools, whereby all children
of this state may receive a good common school education." Ill.
Const. 1870, art. VIII, 1. Under the 1870 Constitution, this court
consistently held that the question of the efficiency and
thoroughness of the school system was one solely for the
legislature to answer, and that the courts lacked the power to
intrude. People v. Deatherage, 401 Ill. 25, 31 (1948) (and cases
cited); People ex rel. Taylor v. Camargo Community Consolidated
School District No. 158, 313 Ill. 321, 327-28 (1924) ("Whether [a
provision governing detachment of territory from school districts]
tends to affect adversely or favorably the thoroughness and
efficiency of the system of free schools is a legislative question
which is not for our determination"); see also G. Braden & R. Cohn,
The Illinois Constitution: An Annotated and Comparative Analysis
400-01 (1969) ("It has been said that the `thorough and efficient'
requirement was solely a matter for legislative discretion and the
courts will not look into it").
However, under a limited exception to this principle it was
held that pursuant to the "thorough and efficient" requirement
school district boundaries must be established so that the
districts are compact and contiguous. See People ex rel. Community
Unit School District No. 5 v. Decatur School District No. 61, 31 Ill. 2d 612, 613-14 (1964). As explained in People ex rel. Leighty
v. Young, 301 Ill. 67, 71 (1921), "[i]t cannot be said that a
system which places the school house at a point so remote that the
children of school age cannot reach it conveniently is either
thorough or efficient." School districts organized in contravention
of the requirements of compactness and contiguity have been held
invalid. See, e.g., Decatur School District, 31 Ill. 2d 612; People
ex rel. Goelzer v. Crawford, 310 Ill. 205 (1923) (finding district
invalid under both the constitution and the applicable statute).
The framers of the 1970 Constitution embraced this limited
construction that the constitutional efficiency requirement
authorized judicial review of school district boundaries, but they
did not intend to otherwise limit legislative discretion. The
education committee's report accompanying the proposed education
article specifically states, "The concept of the efficiency of the
system (already contained in the present Constitution) has been
used by the courts as a guide to the validation of district
boundary changes. The Committee believes it useful to continue this
concept and to add the notion of high quality." 6 Proceedings 234.
An exchange between Delegates Netsch and Patch during the
debate on section 1 confirms the framers' understanding of the
efficiency concept:
"MRS. NETSCH: Mr. Patch or Mr. Fogal, could I
explore just very briefly your use of the word ***
`efficient' ***. Was this done quite consciously to adopt
and reincorporate into this constitutional provision all
of the body of law that has developed with respect to
that term in the previous constitution?
MR. PATCH: Yes. In terms of boundaries and in terms
of quality, so there would be a continuity of education
based on the law or the court decisions relative to
efficiency." 2 Proceedings 766.
Careful review of the remainder of the debates on section 1 of the
education article and other relevant materials in the convention
record discloses no persuasive evidence to support the view that
section 1's efficiency requirement was intended by the framers to
function more broadly as a substantive guarantee of parity in
educational opportunity or funding. Accord ILCS Ann., 1970 Const.,
art. X, 1, Constitutional Commentary, at 789 (Smith-Hurd 1993)
("There is no indication that the Convention intended to alter the
line of cases in which the courts have deferred to the legislature
on the meaning of terms such as `efficient' ").
Disparity in educational funding was a highly charged and
controversial subject during the constitutional convention, but it
was not touched upon to any significant degree in connection with
section 1's efficiency requirement. Instead, the debate over
unequal opportunities and resources ultimately led to the
incorporation of section 1's final sentence, which provides that
"[t]he State has the primary responsibility for financing the
system of public education." Ill. Const. 1970, art. X, 1. That
language did not appear in the education committee's originally
proposed education article. Rather, by a six to five majority, the
education committee had initially proposed a separate section
governing school finance that was designed to achieve greater
parity of educational funding and opportunity by limiting local
contributions to school operational costs to 10% of the amount
received from the General Assembly. See 6 Proceedings 295. Delegate
Bottino, a member of the education committee, submitted an
alternative proposal permitting funding from local taxation in an
amount equal to state funding, and requiring that state funds be
distributed so as to "provide for substantial parity of educational
opportunity throughout the state." 1 Proceedings 622-23.
The members of the education committee were deeply divided
over the main committee proposal. The committee's majority report
specifically noted that "[a] salient fact of Illinois school
finance is the enormous inequality among the districts with respect
to their resources from local tax receipts" and that "the quality
of education received by any student in the State is largely a
product of the accident of the wealth of his district." 6
Proceedings 297. One of the majority's stated objectives was to
"produce a level of educational opportunity that would be more
equal throughout the State for all children." 6 Proceedings 299.
The education committee's minority report acknowledged existing
inequities in school funding (see 6 Proceedings 300), but sought to
preserve the tradition of local control of public education, which
the minority feared would be imperiled under a constitutional
regime of centralized funding of education. The minority believed
that a system of statewide funding of schools would prove
incompatible with local autonomy in educational decisionmaking.
Simply put, the minority did not believe that it was realistic to
expect that the General Assembly would allow local school boards
and administrators free reign with state funds. See 6 Proceedings
301-02. The minority also objected that:
"While substantially full [State] support might
improve the programs of inferior schools, it would lower
the quality of education in the better schools and make
it impossible for local citizens to restore these quality
programs despite their willingness to do so. Local
citizens might well show less interest in the welfare of
their schools if they are frustrated in their efforts to
improve their programs." 6 Proceedings 302.
The minority further expressed the view that educational funding
was "inherently a legislative subject." 6 Proceedings 304.
The framers of the 1970 Constitution rejected both the
education committee proposal (1 Proceedings 527-28) and Delegate
Bottino's alternative proposal (1 Proceedings 622-23).
Subsequently, however, Delegate Netsch offered an amendment to
section 1 adding the language placing primary responsibility for
financing public education on the State. 1 Proceedings 738.
Delegate Netsch explained that the purpose of the amendment was "to
put the Convention on record" that the State should bear greater
responsibility for school funding both to reduce the burden of
property taxes and to cure inequality in education. 5 Proceedings
4502. Delegate Netsch carefully explained, however, that the added
language was "not a legally obligatory command to the state
legislature. *** [I]t is something that can be pointed to every
time the question of appropriations from the state to the school
districts is at issue." 5 Proceedings 4502. In Blase v. State, 55 Ill. 2d 94 (1973), this court reviewed this background and held
that final sentence of section 1 "was intended only to express a
goal or objective, and not to state a specific command." Blase, 55 Ill. 2d at 98; see also People ex rel. Carey v. Board of Education,
55 Ill. 2d 533, 535 (1973).
In our view, the foregoing persuasively suggests that the
framers of the 1970 Constitution viewed educational equality and
"efficiency" to be separate and distinct subjects. The framers of
the 1970 Constitution grappled with the issue of unequal
educational funding and opportunity, and chose to address the
problem with a purely hortatory statement of principle. To ignore
this careful and deliberate choice by interpreting the efficiency
requirement as an enforceable guarantee of equality would do
violence to the framers' understanding of the education article.
Plaintiffs insist that the rejection of the specific funding
proposals merely represents the framers' unwillingness to prescribe
specific funding ratios or formulas in the constitution. According
to plaintiffs, the delegates generally spoke in support of the
general ideal of equalizing educational opportunity. Be that as it
may, we find no significant evidence in the convention record
suggesting that the delegates believed that section 1's efficiency
requirement related to these concerns. The mere utterance of
sentiments favoring educational equality does not itself give rise
to a constitutional guarantee. This court has noted:
"While statements and reports made by the delegates to
the constitutional convention are certainly useful and
important aids in INTERPRETING ambiguous language of the
constitution [citation], they are, of course, not a part
of the constitution. It would be improper for this court
to transform statements made during the constitutional
convention into constitutional requirements where such
statements are not reflected in the language of the
constitution." (Emphasis in original.) Village of
Carpentersville v. Pollution Control Board, 135 Ill. 2d 463, 473 (1990).
Reminding us that the meaning of a constitutional provision
depends on the common understanding of the citizens who ratified
the constitution, plaintiffs emphasize that with reference to the
education article, the "Address to the People" accompanying the
1970 Constitution upon its submission to the voters explains that
"[t]he Convention was greatly concerned with improving and
equalizing opportunities for education." 7 Proceedings 2676. The
articulated "concern" is manifest in the purely hortatory features
of the education article as described above and in Blase v. State,
55 Ill. 2d 94 (1973). The mere expression of concern does not
describe an enforceable constitutional guarantee of educational
equality.
Finally, plaintiffs contend that several decisions from other
states interpreting similar constitutional language have concluded
that "efficiency" dictates fairness and parity in educational
funding. See Abbott v. Burke, 119 N.J. 287, 575 A.2d 359 (1990);
Rose v. Council for Better Education, Inc., 790 S.W.2d 186 (Ky.
1989); Edgewood Independent School District v. Kirby, 777 S.W.2d 391 (Tex. 1989); Pauley v. Kelly, 162 W. Va. 672, 255 S.E.2d 859
(1979). For various reasons, these decisions provide no persuasive
support for plaintiffs' argument.
Pauley simply does not stand for the proposition for which
plaintiffs' cite it. In Pauley, the court ultimately defined a
"thorough and efficient" system of schools not in terms of equal
opportunity, but in terms of various specific substantive
educational goals. Pauley, 162 W. Va. at 699-700, 255 S.E.2d at
877. Similarly, in Abbott, the court stated that New Jersey's
"thorough and efficient" clause required "a certain level of
educational opportunity, a minimum level, that will equip the
student to become `a citizen and ... a competitor in the labor
market.' [Citation.] *** If, however, that level is reached, the
constitutional mandate is fully satisfied regardless of the fact
that some districts may exceed it." Abbott, 119 N.J. at 306, 575 A.2d at 369. Indeed, the Abbott court noted that in an earlier
decision the school finance statute was upheld as facially valid
even though it guaranteed the continuation of substantial
disparities in educational expenditures per pupil. Abbott, 119 N.J.
at 308, 575 A.2d at 369, citing Robinson v. Cahill, 69 N.J. 449,
355 A.2d 129 (1976).
Despite these statements, the Abbott court concluded that New
Jersey was constitutionally required to ensure that education in
poor urban school districts was funded at substantially the same
level as in more affluent suburban districts. Abbott, 119 N.J. at
385, 575 A.2d at 408. The court reached this dubious result
essentially by equating the constitutionally guaranteed minimum
level of educational opportunity with the educational offerings in
the wealthiest districts. See Abbott, 119 N.J. at 364, 575 A.2d at
397; see also Note, State Constitutional Law--Public School
Financing--Spending Disparity Between Wealthy School Districts and
Poor Urban School Districts, Caused By Reliance on Local Property
Taxes, is Violative of the "Thorough and Efficient Education"
Clause, 21 Seton Hall L. Rev. 445, 470 (1991). One writer has
characterized the reasoning employed in Abbott as "an intellectual
shell game" (21 Seton Hall L. Rev. at 477-78), and has suggested
that the variance between the court's description of the "thorough
and efficient" requirement and its ultimate holding "is simply the
imprimatur of result oriented jurisprudence cloaked in superfluous
reasoning" (21 Seton Hall L. Rev. at 480). The criticism is well
founded, and we therefore decline to apply the Abbott court's
analysis in this case.
The other decisions cited by plaintiffs, Rose from Kentucky
and Kirby from Texas, are of limited relevance because in each case
the construction given the term "efficient" depended in large
measure on historical conditions and considerations (see Rose, 790
S.W.2d at 205-06; Kirby, 777 S.W.2d at 395-96) which are not part
of the history of our own constitution. While plaintiffs place
major emphasis on Kirby, the historical basis for the court's
analysis stands in sharp contrast to the history of our
constitution. In Kirby, the court noted that in 1876, when the
Texas constitution was written, economic conditions and educational
funding were fairly uniform throughout the state, and the framers
never contemplated the gross funding disparities that were later to
develop as wealth grew at different rates in different districts.
Kirby, 777 S.W.2d at 395-96. In contrast, as discussed above, the
framers of the Illinois Constitution of 1970 were well aware of
disparities produced under the local property tax based funding
system. Indeed, inequality was a recognized feature of education in
Illinois when the 1870 Constitution--which introduced the
efficiency concept in Illinois--was adopted. As stated in Richards
v. Raymond, 92 Ill. 612, 617-18 (1879):
"[I]t is a part of the history of the State when the
constitution was framed, that there was a great want of
uniformity in the course of study prescribed and taught
in the common schools of the State. In the larger and
more wealthy counties the free schools were well graded
and the course of instruction of a high order, while in
the thinly settled and poorer counties the old district
system was still retained and the course of instruction
prescribed was of a lower order."
In view of all of the foregoing considerations, we agree with
the courts below that disparities in educational funding resulting
from differences in local property wealth do not offend section 1's
efficiency requirement.

B
The remaining question under section 1 of the education
article pertains to its guarantee of a system of "high quality"
educational institutions and services. There is no dispute as to
the nature of this guarantee in the abstract. Instead, the central
issue is whether the quality of education is capable of or properly
subject to measurement by the courts. Plaintiffs maintain that it
is the courts' duty to construe the constitution and determine
whether school funding legislation conforms with its requirements
and cite a number decisions from other jurisdictions in which
courts have concluded that similar constitutional challenges are
capable of judicial resolution. As explained below, however, we
conclude that questions relating to the quality of education are
solely for the legislative branch to answer.
Historically, this court has assumed only an exceedingly
limited role in matters relating to public education, recognizing
that educational policy is almost exclusively within the province
of the legislative branch. Section 1 of article VIII of the 1870
Constitution provided that "[t]he general assembly shall provide a
thorough and efficient system of free schools, whereby all children
of this state may receive a good common school education." Ill.
Const. 1870, art. VIII, 1. As discussed earlier, except in matters
relating to school district boundaries, this court consistently
held that questions relating to the efficiency and thoroughness of
the school system were left to the wisdom of the legislative
branch. This principle has likewise been applied with respect to
the efficiency requirement in the 1970 Constitution. See Cronin v.
Lindberg, 66 Ill. 2d 47, 58 (1976) (law reducing state aid to
schools that failed to operate for a school year of a specified
minimum duration was not reviewable under the efficiency
requirement).
More generally, it has been stated that section 1 of article
VIII of the 1870 Constitution was both "a mandate to the
legislature and a limitation on the exercise of the [legislative]
power. [Citation.] The mandate is to provide a thorough and
efficient system of schools, and the limitations are that they
shall be free to all children of the State and such that all
children may receive a good common school education." People ex
rel. Leighty v. Young, 309 Ill. 27, 33 (1923); see also People ex
rel. Hepfer v. Price, 310 Ill. 66, 73 (1923). Yet, while the
requirement that schools provide a "good common school education"
was explicitly recognized to be a limitation on the legislature's
power to enact public school laws, that limitation was not among
those held generally capable of judicial enforcement. Fiedler v.
Eckfeldt, 335 Ill. 11 (1929), illustrates this subtle but important
point:
"[Section 1 of article VIII of the 1870 Constitution] was
a command addressed to the legislature, and it has been
construed as a limitation also on its power to provide
for the maintenance by local taxation of free schools of
a different character from that named in the section. ***
When we look for the limitations on that power we find
these two, and these two only, WHICH THE COURTS CAN
ENFORCE: that the schools shall be free, and that they
shall be open to all equally. The court has enforced
these limitations when the occasion requiring the
enforcement of them arose. [Citations.] There are no
others TO WHICH THE JUDICIAL POWER EXTENDS." (Emphasis
added.) Fiedler, 335 Ill. at 23.
In Richards v. Raymond, 92 Ill. 612 (1879), this court
rejected the claim that a law providing for the establishment of
public high schools exceeded the General Assembly's power to
provide for schools where children may receive "a good common
school education." This court found no basis in the 1870
Constitution for limiting the discretion of the legislature in
determining what a good common school education entails:
"No definition of a common school is given or specified
in the constitution, nor does that instrument declare
what course of studies shall constitute a common school
education. How can it be said that a high school is
prohibited by the constitution and not included within
the definition of a common school? The phrase, `a common
school education' is one not easily defined. One might
say that a student instructed in reading, writing,
geography, English grammar and arithmetic had received a
common school education, while another who had more
enlarged notions on the subject might insist that
history, natural philosophy and algebra should be
included. It would thus be almost impossible to find two
persons who would in all respects agree in regard to what
constituted a common school education.
***
*** [W]hile the constitution has not defined what a
good common school education is, and has failed to
prescribe a limit, it is no part of the duty of the
courts of the State to declare by judicial construction
what particular branches of study shall constitute a
common school education. That may be and doubtless is a
proper question for the determination of the legislature,
and as a law has been enacted by it which does not appear
to violate the constitution it is not the province of the
courts to interfere." Richards, 92 Ill. at 617-18.
Notwithstanding this jurisprudence, plaintiffs insist that our
present constitution accommodates a more active judicial role in
implementing the constitutional guarantee of an efficient system of
high quality educational institutions and services. In this regard,
plaintiffs stress that while the 1870 Constitution specified that
the General Assembly shall provide a system of public schools, the
1970 Constitution expressly places that duty on the State. In
plaintiffs' view, the change in language signifies that section 1
of the education article is no longer merely a mandate to the
General Assembly, but is a mandate to all three branches of the
State government: the executive branch, the legislative branch and
the judicial branch. Surely, however, this provision does not alter
the roles or expand the powers assigned to the different branches
of government by the constitution. Courts may not legislate in the
field of public education any more than they may legislate in any
other area. In reviewing legislation, the role of the courts is
now, as before, to ensure that the enactment does not exceed
whatever judicially enforceable limitations the constitution places
on the General Assembly's power. Courts are no more capable of
defining "high quality educational institutions and services" under
our present constitution than they were able to define a "good
common school education" under the 1870 Constitution. As the
following exchange during the constitutional convention shows, the
framers of the 1970 Constitution did not intend to formulate any
specific definition of "high quality," nor did they anticipate that
the concept would be defined by the courts:
"MR. GARRISON: ***
It is my understanding that the word `quality' is--
in relation to education--is a much debated concept and
that there have been commissions which have given a great
deal of study to it.
Did the [education] committee come to any definite
definition or conclusion as to what would constitute
quality services with respect to education?
***
MR. FOGAL: No, we--the word `quality,' I suppose,
means different things to different people. We had in
mind the highest, the most excellent educational system
possible; leave this up to the determination of the
legislature and your local districts, and let the
citizens keep pushing for higher-quality education. We
didn't attempt to define all of the ramifications of high
quality." 2 Proceedings 767.
Delegate Kamin, a member of the education committee, added that
"[t]he use of the word `high quality' is a play on the use of the
word `good' which is in the present article." 2 Proceedings 767.
According to delegate Kamin the education committee felt that
"there was not any more specific a definition perhaps for `high
quality' than there was for `good,' but at least `good' is a lower
term; `high quality' is a term which is going in the direction in
which we want to go." 2 Proceedings 767.
Our constitutional jurisprudence in the field of public
education has been guided by considerations of separation of
powers. In federal courts, the principles of separation of powers
find expression in the so-called "political question" doctrine. See
Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 210, 7 L. Ed. 2d 663, 682, 82 S. Ct. 691, 706 (1962) ("The nonjusticiability of a political question is
primarily a function of the separation of powers"). The United
States Supreme Court has stated that, " `[i]n determining whether
a question falls within [the political question] category, the
appropriateness under our system of government of attributing
finality to the action of the political departments AND ALSO THE
LACK OF SATISFACTORY CRITERIA FOR A JUDICIAL DETERMINATION are
dominant considerations.' " (Emphasis added.) Baker, 369 U.S. at
210, 7 L. Ed. 2d at 682, 82 S. Ct. at 706, quoting Coleman v.
Miller, 307 U.S. 433, 454-55, 83 L. Ed. 1385, 1397, 59 S. Ct. 972,
982 (1939).
In Baker, the Court identified several characteristics of
nonjusticiable political questions, including "a lack of judicially
discoverable and manageable standards for resolving [the question]
or the impossibility of deciding [it] without an initial policy
determination of a kind clearly for nonjudicial discretion." Baker,
369 U.S. at 217, 7 L. Ed. 2d at 686, 82 S. Ct. at 710. What
constitutes a "high quality" education, and how it may best be
provided, cannot be ascertained by any judicially discoverable or
manageable standards. The constitution provides no principled basis
for a judicial definition of high quality. It would be a
transparent conceit to suggest that whatever standards of quality
courts might develop would actually be derived from the
constitution in any meaningful sense. Nor is education a subject
within the judiciary's field of expertise, such that a judicial
role in giving content to the education guarantee might be
warranted. Rather, the question of educational quality is
inherently one of policy involving philosophical and practical
considerations that call for the exercise of legislative and
administrative discretion.
To hold that the question of educational quality is subject to
judicial determination would largely deprive the members of the
general public of a voice in a matter which is close to the hearts
of all individuals in Illinois. Judicial determination of the type
of education children should receive and how it can best be
provided would depend on the opinions of whatever expert witnesses
the litigants might call to testify and whatever other evidence
they might choose to present. Members of the general public,
however, would be obliged to listen in respectful silence. We
certainly do not mean to trivialize the views of educators, school
administrators and others who have studied the problems which
public schools confront. But nonexperts--students, parents,
employers and others--also have important views and experiences to
contribute which are not easily reckoned through formal judicial
factfinding. In contrast, an open and robust public debate is the
lifeblood of the political process in our system of representative
democracy. Solutions to problems of educational quality should
emerge from a spirited dialogue between the people of the State and
their elected representatives. In delegate Fogal's words,
previously quoted, "let the citizens keep pushing for higher-
quality education." 2 Proceedings 767.
We are well aware that courts in other jurisdictions have seen
fit to define the contours of a constitutionally guaranteed
education and to establish judicial standards of educational
quality reflecting varying degrees of specificity and deference to
the other branches of government. See, e.g., Campbell County School
District v. State, 907 P.2d 1238, 1265 (Wyo. 1995); Campaign for
Fiscal Equity, Inc. v. State, 86 N.Y.2d 307, 317-19, 655 N.E.2d 661, 666-76, 631 N.Y.S.2d 565, 570-71 (1995); Claremont School
District v. Governor, 138 N.H. 183, 192, 635 A.2d 1375, 1381
(1993); McDuffy v. Secretary of the Executive Office of Education,
415 Mass. 545, 606, 615 N.E.2d 516, 548 (1993); Tennessee Small
School Systems v. McWherter, 851 S.W.2d 139, 147-48 (Tenn. 1993)
(dicta); Abbott v. Burke, 119 N.J. 287, 303-04, 575 A.2d 359, 367
(1990); Rose v. Council for Better Education, Inc., 790 S.W.2d 186,
208-09 (Ky. 1989); Pauley v. Kelly, 162 W. Va. 672, 705-06, 255 S.E.2d 859, 874 (1979); Seattle School District No. 1 v. State, 90 Wash. 2d 476, 502, 585 P.2d 71, 86-87 (1978); see also Idaho
Schools for Equal Educational Opportunity v. Evans, 123 Idaho 573,
583-84, 850 P.2d 724, 734 (1993) (holding that it was court's duty
to interpret constitutional "thoroughness" requirement, but
adopting standards promulgated by the executive branch); Unified
School District No. 229 v. State, 256 Kan. 232, 275, 885 P.2d 1170,
1186 (1994) (court would not substitute its judgment as to what
type of education was "suitable" within the meaning of the
constitution for the standards developed by the legislature and
state department of education; where all schools were able to meet
those standards, the school finance statute was upheld); McDaniel
v. Thomas, 248 Ga. 632, 633, 643-44, 285 S.E.2d 156, 157, 165
(1981) (while holding that the question of whether financing system
deprived children of constitutionally guaranteed "adequate
education" was justiciable, court would only inquire whether system
met a lower standard of providing a minimum or basic education;
because of the inherent difficulty in establishing a judicially
manageable standard for determining whether or not pupils are being
provided an "adequate education," legislative branch must give
content to the term "adequate"). By and large these courts have
viewed the process of formulating educational standards as merely
an exercise in constitutional interpretation or construction. For
the reasons already stated, we disagree; we will not "under the
guise of constitutional interpretation, presume to lay down
guidelines or ultimatums for [the legislature]." Seattle School
District, 90 Wash. 2d at 579, 585 P.2d at 128 (Rosellini, J.,
dissenting, joined by Hamilton & Hicks, JJ.).
Rather, we agree with the views of the dissenters in several
of the cases cited above. In Seattle School District, Justice
Rosellini lamented the court's usurpation of the legislative
prerogative in the area of educational policy:
"I would be surprised to learn that the people of
this state are willing to turn over to a tribunal against
which they have little if any recourse, a matter of such
grave concern to them and upon which they hold so many
strong, though conflicting views. If their legislators
pass laws with which they disagree or refuse to act when
the people think they should, they can make their
dissatisfaction known at the polls. They can write to
their representatives or appear before them and let their
protests be heard. The court, however, is not so easy to
reach [citation] nor is it so easy to persuade that its
judgment ought to be revised. A legislature may be a hard
horse to harness, but it is not quite the stubborn mule
that a court can be. Most importantly, the court is not
designed or equipped to make public policy decisions, as
this case so forcibly demonstrates." Seattle School
District, 90 Wash. 2d at 563-64, 585 P.2d at 120
(Rosellini, J., dissenting, joined by Hamilton & Hicks,
JJ.).
In Pauley, Justice Neely offered the following views regarding
West Virginia's "thorough and efficient system" requirement which
are germane to our own constitution's efficiency and quality
guarantees:
" `Thorough and efficient' education apparently does
not mean in this modern world just advanced mathematics,
chemistry, physics, foreign languages, competence in
written and spoken English, and a well-developed
knowledge of history. Something more in the form of
vocational training and preparation for life is implied,
yet whatever it is, it is far too unmanageable a standard
to be developed in a vacuum devoid of political give and
take by the logical judicial mind, because inherent in
any consensus about `thorough and efficient' education is
a difficult balance between irreconcilable value systems.
I have my own ideas of what constitutes `thorough and
efficient' education; nonetheless, I am constitutionally
constrained not to force them down the throats of other
equally well-informed persons who have different values
merely because I am a judge." Pauley, 162 W. Va. at 747,
255 S.E.2d at 899 (Neely, J., dissenting).
We conclude that the question of whether the educational
institutions and services in Illinois are "high quality" is outside
the sphere of the judicial function. To the extent plaintiffs'
claim that the system for financing public schools is
unconstitutional rests on perceived deficiencies in the quality of
education in public schools, the claim was properly dismissed. For
the foregoing reasons, we affirm the dismissal of plaintiffs'
claims under the education article of our state constitution.

II
We next consider whether the alleged disparities in
educational funding and opportunity due to variations in local
property wealth give rise to a cause of action under the equal
protection clause of our state constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art.
I, 2). This court has recently offered the following description
of the analytical framework for evaluating equal protection claims:
"The analysis applied by this court in assessing
equal protection claims is the same under both the United
States and Illinois Constitutions. [Citation.] The
guarantee of equal protection requires that the
government treat similarly situated individuals in a
similar manner. [Citation.] It does not preclude the
State from enacting legislation that draws distinctions
between different categories of people, but it does
prohibit the government from according different
treatment to persons who have been placed by statute into
different classes on the basis of criteria wholly
unrelated to the purpose of the legislation. [Citation.]
In reviewing a claim that a statute violates equal
protection, the court applies different levels of
scrutiny depending on the nature of the statutory
classification involved. Classifications based on race or
national origin or affecting fundamental rights are
strictly scrutinized. Intermediate scrutiny applies to
discriminatory classifications based on sex or
illegitimacy. In all other cases, the court employs only
a rational basis review." Jacobson v. Department of
Public Aid, 171 Ill. 2d 314, 322-23 (1996).
Because the present challenge to the school funding scheme does not
involve a classification based on gender or illegitimacy, the
intermediate level of scrutiny does not apply. Accord Board of
Education, Levittown Union Free School District v. Nyquist, 57 N.Y.2d 27, 42-43, 439 N.E.2d 359, 365-66, 453 N.Y.S.2d 643, 649-50
(1982). Moreover, plaintiffs do not argue that the school funding
scheme involves a suspect classification such as race or national
origin. Thus, the applicable standard of review in this case
depends on whether education is a fundamental right. If so, to the
extent that funding disparities can be said to impinge on or
interfere with the right to an education, the system for financing
public schools would be subject to strict scrutiny. On the other
hand, if education is not a fundamental right, the highly
deferential "rational basis" test would apply.
In San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1, 36 L. Ed. 2d 16, 93 S. Ct. 1278 (1973), the United States
Supreme Court rejected a challenge under the equal protection
clause of the United States Constitution (U.S. Const., amend. XIV)
to Texas' system of financing public schools. As in the case at
bar, the challenge in Rodriguez was based upon funding disparities
due to variations in local wealth. The Court determined that
education was not a fundamental right for equal protection purposes
under the United States Constitution, and hence Texas' school
funding scheme was not subject to strict scrutiny. The Court
reasoned that the key to determining whether education is
fundamental "lies in assessing whether there is a right to
education explicitly or implicitly guaranteed by the Constitution."
Rodriguez, 411 U.S. at 33, 36 L. Ed. 2d at 43, 93 S. Ct. at 1297.
The Court observed that education was not explicitly afforded
constitutional protection, and the Court could find no basis for
saying it was implicitly so protected. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. at 35,
36 L. Ed. 2d at 44, 93 S. Ct. at 1297.
Plaintiffs argue that Rodriguez does not control the
determination of whether education is a fundamental right under our
state constitution. They contend that unlike the United States
Constitution, section 1 of the education article of our state
constitution explicitly guarantees the right to an education. While
our constitution does not expressly speak of a "right" to
education, it may be argued that such a right corresponds to the
constitutional requirement that "[t]he State SHALL provide for an
efficient system of high quality public educational institutions
and services" (emphasis added) (Ill. Const. 1970, art. X, 1). See
Seattle School District No. 1 of King County v. State, 90 Wash. 2d 476, 495, 585 P.2d 71, 91 (1978); but see Idaho Schools for Equal
Educational Opportunity v. Evans, 123 Idaho 573, 581-82, 850 P.2d 724, 732-33 (1993) ("Although the sections of our state
constitution which impose a duty upon the government might be said
to invest a derivative right in those to whom the duty is owed, the
inclusion of those derivative rights in our definition of
fundamental rights would be overly broad"). In any event, this
court has specifically indicated that not every right secured by
our state constitution is "fundamental." Kalodimos v. Village of
Morton Grove, 103 Ill. 2d 483, 509 (1984); accord Illinois Pure
Water Committee, Inc., v Director of Public Health, 104 Ill. 2d 243, 251-52 (1984) (noting absence of authority that sections 1 and
2 of article XI of the 1970 Constitution create a "fundamental"
right to a healthful environment, and declining to subject statutes
affecting the environment to heightened scrutiny). This view is
consistent with decisions from other jurisdictions which have
observed that while the federal government is one of limited or
delegated powers, all powers not delegated to the United States or
prohibited to the states are reserved to the states or to the
people. As such, state constitutions touch upon a range of
subjects, not all of which are fundamental. See Hornbeck v.
Somerset County Board of Education, 295 Md. 597, 642, 458 A.2d 758,
785 (1983) (and cases cited); Fair School Finance Council of
Oklahoma, Inc. v. State, 746 P.2d 1135, 1148-49 (Okla. 1987).
This court has stated that fundamental rights are "only those
which `lie at the heart of the relationship between the individual
and a republican form of nationally integrated government.' "
Kalodimos, 103 Ill. 2d at 509, quoting People ex rel. Tucker v.
Kotsos, 68 Ill. 2d 88, 97 (1977). Fundamental rights include the
expression of ideas, participation in the political process, travel
among the states and privacy with regard to the most intimate and
personal aspects of one's life. Kotsos, 68 Ill. 2d at 97.
Plaintiffs urge us to add education to this list because of its
relationship with certain of these rights which are at the core of
one's role as a citizen. Plaintiffs contend that an education is
essential to one's ability to lead a productive life and is closely
tied to the basic rights of democracy. Amici amplify the point,
asserting that "[a] sound education *** provides meaning and
substance to other fundamental rights--including the right to
speak, the right to enjoy an occupation of choice and the right to
vote."
While plaintiffs and amici perceptively characterize the
relationship between education and certain basic aspects of
citizenship, we disagree with their conclusion that this
relationship justifies treating education as itself a fundamental
right for equal protection purposes. Generally speaking, the
fundamental right analysis is concerned with laws that somehow
restrain the exercise of a fundamental right. See Rodriguez, 411 U.S. at 38, 36 L. Ed. 2d at 46, 93 S. Ct. at 1299 ("Each of our
prior cases involved legislation which `deprived,' `infringed,' or
`interfered' with the free exercise of some such fundamental
personal right or liberty"). Recognition that rights of expression
and participation in the political process are fundamental--and
thus safeguarded against unjustified governmental interference--
does not necessarily translate into an affirmative governmental
obligation to enrich each individual's personal capacity or ability
to exercise these rights. In this regard it is significant that
while the framers of the 1970 Constitution recognized the
importance of "the educational development of all persons to the
limits of their capacities," they stopped short of declaring such
educational development to be a "right," choosing instead to
identify it as a "fundamental GOAL." (Emphasis added.)
In determining that education was not implicitly protected by
the United States Constitution, the Rodriguez Court rejected an
argument similar to the one plaintiffs and amici presently advance:
"The Court has long afforded zealous protection against
unjustifiable governmental interference with the
individual's rights to speak and to vote. Yet we have
never presumed to possess either the ability or the
authority to guarantee to the citizenry the most
EFFECTIVE speech or the most INFORMED electoral choice.
That these may be desirable goals of a system of freedom
of expression and of a representative form of government
is not to be doubted. These are indeed goals to be
pursued by a people whose thoughts and beliefs are freed
from governmental interference. But they are not values
to be implemented by judicial intrusion into otherwise
legitimate state activities." (Emphasis in original.)
Rodriguez, 411 U.S. at 36, 36 L. Ed. 2d at 44-45, 93 S. Ct. at 1298.
While education is certainly a vitally important governmental
function (see Fumarolo v. Chicago Board of Education, 142 Ill. 2d 54, 73-74 (1990)), it is not a fundamental individual right for
equal protection purposes, and thus the appropriate standard of
review is the rational basis test. Under the rational basis test,
judicial review of a legislative classification is limited and
generally deferential. Jacobson v. Department of Public Aid, 171 Ill. 2d 314, 323 (1996). The challenged classification need only be
rationally related to a legitimate state goal (People v. Bailey,
167 Ill. 2d 210, 231 (1995)) and if any state of facts can
reasonably be conceived to justify the classification, it must be
upheld (Jacobson, 171 Ill. 2d at 324).
The rationality of Illinois' school funding scheme is best
gauged in light of the basic philosophical considerations that have
defined the policy debate in the area of public education finance.
As noted in Rodriguez:
" `The history of education since the industrial
revolution shows a continual struggle between two forces:
the desire by members of society to have educational
opportunity for all children, and the desire of each
family to provide the best education it can afford for
its own children.' " Rodriguez, 411 U.S. at 49, 36 L. Ed. 2d at 52, 93 S. Ct. at 1305, quoting J. Coleman, Foreword
to G. Strayer & R. Haig, The Financing of Education in
the State of New York vii (1923).
Similarly, one commentator has observed:
"The character of a public education system can be
evaluated in terms of three often competing principles:
quality, equality, and liberty. The quality of a school
system is high when good educational opportunities are
available to the least advantaged children in the state.
In a school system featuring a high degree of equality
every student has access to the same educational
resources as any other student. Liberty is enhanced when
localities or families have the autonomy to determine
what proportion of their resources they wish to devote to
the education of their youth.
*** A guarantee of equal educational funding does
not secure any particular level of quality. It does
ensure a high level of equality and a low level of
liberty. Liberty is curtailed because equalization of
educational funding requires redistribution of resources
from wealthy districts to poor ones, which can only be
achieved through greater centralization of control over
the public schools. Centralization reduces the freedom of
localities and families to choose their own levels of
educational spending." R. Stark, Education Reform:
Judicial Interpretation of State Constitutions' Education
Finance Provisions--Adequacy vs. Equality, 1991 Annual
Survey of American Law 609, 665-66.
The concept of "local control" in public education connotes
not only the opportunity for local participation in decisionmaking
but also "the freedom to devote more money to the education of
one's children." Rodriguez, 411 U.S. at 49-50, 36 L. Ed. 2d at 52,
93 S. Ct. at 1304-05; see also Lujan v. Colorado State Board of
Education, 649 P.2d 1005, 1023 (Colo. 1982) ("[local] control is
exercised by influencing the determination of how much money should
be raised for local schools, and how that money should be spent").
As noted earlier, several members of the education committee of the
Sixth Constitutional Convention voiced strong support for the
preservation of local control. They felt that community members
would be less enthusiastic in their efforts to improve public
education if limits were placed on community decisions to support
local schools with local resources for the sake of equalizing
resources statewide.
The general structure of the State's system of funding public
schools through State and local resources--and the particular
amounts allocated for distribution as general state aid--represent
legislative efforts to strike a balance between the competing
considerations of educational equality and local control. Certainly
reasonable people might differ as to which consideration should be
dominant. However, the highly deferential rational basis test does
not permit us to substitute our judgment in this regard for that of
the General Assembly, and we have no basis to conclude that the
manner in which the General Assembly has struck the balance between
equality and local control is so irrational as to offend the
guarantee of equal protection. We also note that although reliance
on local wealth to fund public education produces variations in
resources which do not necessarily correspond to differences in
educational need, the same may be said for a variety of important
governmental services, such as police and fire protection, which
have traditionally been funded at the local level. See Rodriguez,
411 U.S. at 53-54, 36 L. Ed. 2d at 54-55, 93 S. Ct. at 1307.
Consequently, the logical implications of declaring Illinois'
system of financing public education to be "irrational" might be
far reaching indeed. While the present school funding scheme might
be thought unwise, undesirable or unenlightened from the standpoint
of contemporary notions of social justice, these objections must be
presented to the General Assembly.
While some decisions in other jurisdictions have concluded
that there is no rational basis for funding disparities based on
local wealth (see, e.g., Tennessee Small School Systems v.
McWherter, 851 S.W.2d 139, 153-56 (Tenn. 1993); Dupree v. Alma
School District No. 30, 279 Ark. 340, 345, 651 S.W.2d 90, 93
(1983)), financing schemes similar to ours have been upheld by a
majority of those courts that have applied the rational basis
standard (see, e.g., City of Pawtucket v. Sundlun, 662 A.2d 40, 62
(R.I. 1995); Kukor v. Grover, 148 Wis. 2d 469, 497-510, 436 N.W.2d 568, 580-85 (1989); Fair School Finance Council of Oklahoma, Inc.
v. State, 746 P.2d 1135, 1150 (Okla. 1987); Hornbeck v. Somerset
County Board of Education, 295 Md. 597, 651, 458 A.2d 758, 788-90
(1983); Board of Education, Levittown Union Free School District v.
Nyquist, 57 N.Y.2d 27, 43-46, 439 N.E.2d 359, 366-68, 453 N.Y.S.2d 643, 650-52 (1982); Lujan v. Colorado State Board of Education, 649 P.2d 1005, 1022-23 (Colo. 1982); McDaniel v. Thomas, 248 Ga. 632,
648, 285 S.E.2d 156, 167-68 (1981); Board of Education v. Walter,
58 Ohio St. 2d 368, 377, 390 N.E.2d 813, 820 (1979); Thompson v.
Engelking, 537 P.2d 635, 645 (Idaho 1975)). In accordance with
Rodriguez and the majority of state court decisions, and for all
the reasons set forth above, we conclude that the State's system of
funding public education is rationally related to the legitimate
State goal of promoting local control. Plaintiffs' claims under the
equal protection clause of Illinois Constitution were properly
dismissed.

CONCLUSION
In closing, it bears emphasis that our decision in no way
represents an endorsement of the present system of financing public
schools in Illinois, nor do we mean to discourage plaintiffs'
efforts to reform the system. However, for the reasons explained
above, the process of reform must be undertaken in a legislative
forum rather than in the courts. Plaintiffs' complaint was properly
dismissed, and we therefore affirm the judgment of the appellate
court.

Affirmed.

JUSTICE HARRISON took no part in the consideration or decision
of this case.

JUSTICE FREEMAN, concurring in part and dissenting in part:
I agree with the majority that count I of plaintiffs'
complaint does not state a cause of action under the equal protec-
tion clause of the 1970 Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970,
art. I, 2). Accordingly, I concur in that part of the majority
opinion that upholds the trial court's dismissal of that count.
Slip op. at 24-32.
However, the majority also concludes that count III of the
complaint does not state a cause of action under the education
article of the 1970 Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art.
X, 1). I respectfully disagree. I conclude that count III does
state a cause of action under the education article. Accordingly,
I dissent from that part of the majority opinion that upholds the
trial court's dismissal of that count. Slip op. at 5-24.

BACKGROUND
This case comes to this court on a motion to dismiss. 735 ILCS
5/2--615 (West 1994). Therefore, we must determine whether
plaintiffs' second-amended complaint, when viewed in the light most
favorable to plaintiffs, alleges sufficient facts to establish a
cause of action on which relief may be granted. We must take as
true all well-pled facts in the complaint and construe all
reasonable inferences in favor of plaintiffs. See Ziemba v.
Mierzwa, 142 Ill. 2d 42, 46-47 (1991); Meerbrey v. Marshall Field
& Co., 139 Ill. 2d 455, 473 (1990).
The majority describes the gist of plaintiffs' detailed
second-amended complaint. Slip op. at 3-5. Plaintiffs allege the
following. The Illinois public school funding scheme creates vast
disparities in educational resources and opportunity among Illinois
school districts. The complaint quotes from the 1989 School Report
Card, published by the Illinois State Board of Education, which
stated as follows. Rich school districts employed a greater
percentage of teachers with advanced degrees than poor districts.
Rich school districts paid their teachers considerably higher
salaries than poor districts. Also, more money was spent to educate
students in rich school districts than in poor districts. In
contrast, poor school districts, with significantly higher
proportions of students from low-income families, had considerably
fewer resources to help educate their children than rich districts.
I recount some of the complaint's specific allegations to show
clearly the factual basis of this lawsuit. For example, a poor
school district reported that "it replaces its worn-out desks by
retrieving from a dumpster perfectly functional desks thrown away
by a neighboring school district."
The complaint offers two neighboring school districts as "a
concrete example of the consequences of differences in local
property wealth." Byron Community Unit School District No. 226 and
Mount Morris Community Unit School District No. 261 are located in
Ogle County, which lies in north central Illinois. Based on their
respective property tax bases, schools in the Byron district
receive significantly greater funding than schools in the Mount
Morris district. "As a result of these large differences in school
funding in the two districts, the children of Byron have far
greater educational opportunity than the children of Mount Morris,
with far less tax effort."
For example, Byron offers a starting salary for new teachers
of $22,800 per year; Mount Morris can afford to offer only $16,000.
Byron High School offers 187 courses; Mount Morris' high school
offers only 113. Byron uses relatively new and current textbooks;
Mount Morris uses textbooks that are 15 to 20 years old. Physical
facilities at Byron are new and in good condition; Mount Morris
lacks funds to remedy a $900,000 asbestos problem, repair leaky
roofs, and replace flammable stage curtains and rotting football
field bleachers.
Further, the disparities in educational resources and
opportunity among Illinois school districts are some of the most
severe in the nation. The complaint quotes from the 1989 Annual
Report of the Illinois State Board of Education, which acknowledged
that Illinois ranks sixth in the nation in educational funding
disparities.

DISCUSSION
I note at the outset some general principles that the majority
recognizes. Slip op. at 7-8. A court presumes legislation to be
constitutional. Based on this presumption, the party challenging
particular legislation has the burden of clearly establishing the
alleged constitutional violation. Nevitt v. Langfelder, 157 Ill. 2d 116, 124 (1993); People v. Shephard, 152 Ill. 2d 489, 499 (1992).
The meaning of a constitutional provision depends on the
common understanding of the citizens who gave the constitution life
by ratifying it. This understanding is best determined by referring
to the common meaning of the words used (League of Women Voters v.
County of Peoria, 121 Ill. 2d 236, 243 (1987)), unless it is
clearly evident that a contrary meaning was intended. Coalition for
Political Honesty v. State Board of Elections, 65 Ill. 2d 453, 464
(1976). Where the text of the constitution is clear and
unambiguous, the constitutional convention debates can have no
bearing or effect on its interpretation. Nevitt, 157 Ill. 2d at
134; People ex rel. Watseka Telephone Co. v. Emmerson, 302 Ill. 300, 311 (1922).
If ambiguities remain after consulting the language of the
provision, it is then appropriate to consult the convention debates
to ascertain the meaning that the delegates attached to the provi-
sion. This is so because it is only with the consent of the
convention that the provision was submitted to the voters in the
first place. League of Women Voters, 121 Ill. 2d at 243-44. Also,
"[i]n construing the meaning of a constitutional provision, it is
appropriate and helpful to examine it in light of the history and
condition of the times, and the particular problem which the
convention sought to address by incorporating in the document the
questioned provision." Client Follow-Up Co. v. Hynes, 75 Ill. 2d 208, 216 (1979).

Illinois Education Article
Plaintiffs contend, inter alia, that the public school funding
scheme violates section 1 of the education article of the 1970
Illinois Constitution:
"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 second-
ary level shall be free. There may be such other free
education as the General Assembly provides by law.
The State has the primary responsibility for
financing the system of public education." (Emphasis
added.) Ill. Const. 1970, art. X, 1.
Plaintiffs focus on the first sentence of the second paragraph
(hereafter the education system provision). Plaintiffs allege,
inter alia, that the education system provision requires the state
to provide an education system that is "efficient" and "high
quality." Plaintiffs allege that the Illinois public school funding
scheme creates significant and growing disparities in educational
services and resources throughout the state. According to
plaintiffs, "[a]n educational funding system is not an `efficient
system' when some children have vast educational resources and
others minimal. An education funding system is not a `system of
high quality' schools where only some children can go to them."
While I agree with plaintiffs' characterization of the
"efficiency" aspect of the education system provision, I hereafter
focus my remarks on its "high quality" aspect. Plaintiffs argue
that the state provides an educational system in which students in
poor school districts are relegated to an educational opportunity
that is devoid of high quality and is dramatically inferior to that
offered in rich school districts. Plaintiffs claim that these
disparities are so severe that the state fails to provide children
in poor school districts "an efficient system of high quality
public educational institutions and services."

Jurisdiction
I initially address the issue of whether count III presents a
justiciable issue, or whether it raises a nonjusticiable political
question over which a court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. When
the parties seek adjudication of only a political question, they do
not present a court with a justiciable controversy. Flast v. Cohen,
392 U.S. 83, 95, 20 L. Ed. 2d 947, 959, 88 S. Ct. 1942, 1950
(1968). Absent a justiciable controversy, a court lacks subject-
matter jurisdiction. People v. Capitol News, Inc., 137 Ill. 2d 162,
170 (1990). Agreeing with the State, the majority declares that the
high quality aspect of the education system provision is not
judicially enforceable. Slip op. at 17-24.
I respectfully disagree. The following principles are
fundamental:
"Under traditional constitutional theory, the basic
`sovereign' power of the state resides in the
legislature. From this it follows, again in theory, that
there is no need to grant any power to the legislature.
All that need be done is to place such limitations as are
desired on the legislature's otherwise unlimited power."
G. Braden & R. Cohn, The Illinois Constitution: An
Annotated and Comparative Analysis 111 (1969), cited in
Client Follow-Up, 75 Ill. 2d at 215.
Accordingly:
"limitations written into the Constitution are
restrictions on legislative power and are enforceable by
the courts. On the other hand, constitutional directives
to the legislature are considered as mandates or commands
to the legislature to act, and it is generally held that
the courts are powerless to enforce them." Client Follow-
Up, 75 Ill. 2d at 215.
To determine the judicial enforceability of the education
system provision, I first review section 1 of the education article
of the 1870 Illinois Constitution, which stated:
"The general assembly shall provide a thorough and
efficient system of free schools, whereby all children of
this state may receive a good common school education."
(Emphasis added.) Ill. Const. 1870, art. VIII, 1.
Applying traditional constitutional theory to this section,
this court consistently held that this section was a mandate to the
legislature, requiring it to provide a thorough and efficient
system of free schools. The same section was held also to limit the
power of the legislature, in that the section limited the purpose
of the system of free schools to that of providing a good education
to all the children of the state. People ex rel. Hepfer v. Price,
310 Ill. 66, 73 (1923); People ex rel. Goodell v. Chicago &
Northwestern Ry. Co., 286 Ill. 384, 390 (1918).
This court concluded that section 1 of the 1870 Constitution's
education article imposed only two judicially enforceable
limitations on the legislature: that the schools were free, and
that they were open to all without discrimination. People v.
Deatherage, 401 Ill. 25, 30 (1948); Fiedler v. Eckfeldt, 335 Ill. 11, 23 (1929). However, the question of the efficiency and fairness
of the school system was solely for the legislature to answer.
McLain v. Phelps, 409 Ill. 393, 398 (1951); Deatherage, 401 Ill. at
31.
This court expressly based this conclusion on the plain
language of section 1 of the 1870 Constitution's education article,
which commanded the legislature specifically. In Fiedler, 335 Ill.
at 23-24, this court cited examples from other constitutional
directives in the 1870 Constitution that were addressed
specifically either to the General Assembly or to the Governor.
Referring to section 1 of the 1870 Constitution's education
article, the Fiedler court explained:
"The command of the constitution is addressed to the
General Assembly alone. It was not a self-executing
provision but required legislation to give it effect, and
the responsibility and duty of providing the system and
the means and agencies by which it should be made
effective rest upon the General Assembly alone."
(Emphasis added.) Fiedler, 335 Ill. at 23.
In contrast, the education system provision in the 1970
Illinois Constitution is expressly addressed to the "State"
generally, as opposed to section 1 of the 1870 Constitution's
education article, which was addressed to the "general assembly"
specifically. I conclude that the education system provision in the
1970 Illinois Constitution is not a command addressed solely to the
legislature, as was section 1 of the education article of the 1870
Constitution. Rather, the education system provision is a
constitutional directive to the three branches of state government
to fulfill their duties in accordance with their traditional roles
under separation of powers principles. I base my conclusion on the
plain language of the 1970 Constitution's education article, which
is supported by the record of the constitutional convention.
Initially, the plain language of the 1970 Illinois
Constitution's education article shows that the education system
provision is addressed to the entire state government and not
solely to the legislature. I earlier quoted section 1 of the
current education article. The first paragraph of section 1 refers
to education as a fundamental goal of "the People of the State."
The sovereign power of the entire state government resides in the
people of the state, who are vested with ultimate sovereignty. In
other words, the people of the state are "the source of all
governmental power--not only all legislative power but all
executive power and all judicial power." People ex rel. Thomson v.
Barnett, 344 Ill. 62, 65 (1931); accord Dodge v. Cole, 97 Ill. 338,
355 (1881); 81A C.J.S. States 35 (1977); 1 T. Cooley,
Constitutional Limitations 81, 84 (8th ed. 1927).
It is correct and traditional to speak of the complete or
unlimited power of the legislature, absent constitutional
limitations. See, e.g., Client Follow-Up, 75 Ill. 2d at 215; Locust
Grove Cemetery Ass'n v. Rose, 16 Ill. 2d 132, 138 (1959);
Greenfield v. Russel, 292 Ill. 392, 399 (1920); Harris v. Board of
Supervisors, 105 Ill. 445, 450 (1882). However, it must be remem-
bered that the people of the state, as the ultimate sovereign,
vested such power in the legislature in the first place. Barnett,
344 Ill. at 66; Hawthorn v. People, 109 Ill. 302, 306 (1883);
accord 72 Am. Jur. 2d States, Territories, and Dependencies 41, at
440 (1974); 1 T. Cooley, Constitutional Limitations 175-77 (8th ed.
1927). Thus, I read the first paragraph of section 1 of the
education article to declare that education is a fundamental goal
of the entire state government.
The education system provision immediately follows, addressed
simply to "The State." Why would the framers of the 1970 Illinois
Constitution use the words "The State" if they intended to refer
solely to the General Assembly, as the 1870 Constitution had
expressly done? If "the State" were read as referring solely to the
legislature, those plain words would be rendered superfluous.
However, courts do not presume the existence of surplusage in
constitutional or statutory construction. The rule of construction
that each word, clause, or sentence must be given some reasonable
meaning, if possible, applies especially to constitutional
interpretation. Coalition for Political Honesty, 65 Ill. 2d at 466
(and cases cited therein). The efficient system requirement, ad-
dressed to "The State," plainly refers to the preceding "People of
the State," which, as I explained, refers to the entire state
government.
I also note that the last sentence in the second paragraph of
the education article refers specifically to the "General Assem-
bly." Thus, if the framers of the 1970 Illinois Constitution had
intended the education system provision to command the legislature
alone, they could have named the legislature specifically.
My analysis of the education system provision, based on the
plain language of the education article, should properly end here.
See Nevitt, 157 Ill. 2d at 134. However, the State contends that
the convention record reveals the opposite conclusion.
I disagree. The plain language of the education article is
supported by the record of the constitutional convention. The
Education Committee originally drafted the education system
provision to read: "To achieve this goal [educational development
as the `paramount goal' of the people of the State], it shall be
the duty of the State to provide for an efficient system of high
quality public educational institutions and services." (Emphasis
added.) 6 Record of Proceedings, Sixth Illinois Constitutional
Convention 227, Committee Proposal No. 1 (hereinafter cited as
Proceedings).
In presenting Committee Proposal No. 1 to the convention,
committee member Samuel Patch repeatedly referred to the education
system provision as a mandate to the "state." 2 Proceedings 764-65.
Further, in response to questions on the proposal, Patch
specifically said that the "state" was mandated "to carry out this
goal--therefore, we said the whole state, that is, the executive
branch as well as the General Assembly." (Emphasis added.) 2
Proceedings 766.
At the end of the debate, the phrase "the paramount goal" was
replaced with the phrase "a fundamental goal." 2 Proceedings 802-
03. The proposed education article was sent to the Style, Drafting
and Submission Committee (hereafter Style Committee). The Style
Committee then modified the proposed education article as shown in
pertinent part, with deleted language in brackets and added
language underlined:
"A fundamental goal of the People of the State
[shall be] is the educational development of all persons
to the limits of their capacities.
[To achieve this goal, it shall be the duty of] The
State shall [to] provide for an efficient system of high
quality public educational institutions and services." 6
Proceedings 331 (Style Committee Proposal No. 11).
On the convention floor, delegates questioned the Style
Committee chairman on whether the deletions to the education system
provision, as originally drafted, changed the meaning of the
sentence. 5 Proceedings 4120. The chairman answered:
"We didn't work a substantive change in it. If anything,
I think we reaffirmed in a stronger manner by sentence 2,
the intent of the [convention] on first reading.
Furthermore, sentence 2 follows sentence 1; the two
are definitely interrelated. I don't think reasonable
people would differ about that ***." 5 Proceedings 4121.
Thus, both the plain language of the education article and the
convention record show that the education system provision is
addressed to the entire state government and not solely to the
legislature.
The State contends that the record of the constitutional
convention clearly expresses the obvious intent of the framers that
the education system provision is addressed solely to the
legislature. The State cites several examples from the convention
record.
The Education Committee originally drafted the first section,
first paragraph of the education article to declare that education
is the "paramount" goal of the people of the state. 6 Proceedings
227 (Committee Proposal No. 1). The State points to the many
delegates who expressed their concern that such a constitutional
commitment would remove legislative flexibility in addressing other
important matters. 2 Proceedings 769, 793, 798-802.
The State also points to the Education Committee's written
explanation of the education system provision. The committee
described it as a mandate. The committee noted that Illinois courts
already used the concept of efficiency as a guide in validating
school district boundary changes. The committee believed that it
would be useful to continue this concept of efficiency and to add
to it the idea of high quality. 6 Proceedings 234, Committee
Proposal No. 1. During questioning on the convention floor,
committee member Patch explained that the committee intended to
reincorporate and maintain the continuity of case law on efficiency
in the context of school district boundaries. 2 Proceedings 766.
The State argues that this explanation clearly shows the obvious
intent of the framers to continue this court's interpretation of
section 1 of the education article of the 1870 Constitution as
judicially nonenforceable.
The State also points to the Education Committee's Proposal
No. 2, which provided that "substantially all funds for the
operational costs of the free public schools shall be appropriated
by the General Assembly for the benefit of the local school
districts," and which limited local school taxes to 10% of the
amount that a school district received from the legislature. 6
Proceedings 295, Committee Proposal No. 2. In Blase v. State, 55 Ill. 2d 94, 98-100 (1973), this court recounted the debate on this
proposal and how it ultimately resulted in the third paragraph of
section 1 of the education article. Based on the convention record,
this court held that the paragraph was merely hortatory and did not
impose a specific, legally enforceable funding obligation on the
General Assembly.
These references to the constitutional convention record do
not constitute such a clear expression of an obvious intent of the
framers as to allow this court to ignore the unambiguous constitu-
tional language. Of course, the convention delegates were sensitive
to the need for legislative flexibility. The delegates did not
intend to constitutionally mandate any particular public school
funding scheme. They also wanted to maintain the continuity of case
law on efficiency in the context of school district boundaries.
Nevertheless, the plain language of the education article,
additionally supported by the convention record, shows that the
education system provision is not limited to the legislature, as
was section 1 of the education article of the 1870 Constitution.
Rather, the education system provision is a restriction that is
directed at the entire state government.
The entire state government consists not only of the executive
and legislative departments, as Delegate Patch stated (2
Proceedings 766), but also the judicial department. People v.
Commonwealth Edison Co., 367 Ill. 260, 273 (1937); Devine v.
Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co., 270 Ill. 504, 509 (1915); Dodge, 97 Ill. at 355.
Neither the plain language of the education article of the
1970 Illinois Constitution nor the convention record indicates that
the framers intended to strip from the courts the power to
determine whether the education system provision has been violated.
Since the education system provision is addressed to the entire
state government, and since the judiciary is a coordinate branch of
state government, I would hold that the education system provision
is judicially enforceable.
I acknowledge that this court reached a contrary conclusion in
Cronin v. Lindberg, 66 Ill. 2d 47, 58 (1976). The court in Cronin
mechanically applied this court's interpretation of the 1870
Constitution's education article to the education system provision
of the 1970 Illinois Constitution. See also Polich v. Chicago
School Finance Authority, 79 Ill. 2d 188, 203-04 (1980); Board of
Education, School District No. 150 v. Cronin, 51 Ill. App. 3d 838,
841-42 (1977). Such an application is erroneous. I would reverse
Cronin on this point.
The majority concludes that the plain language of the
education system provision, additionally supported by the
convention record, "does not alter the roles or expand the powers
assigned to the different branches of government by the
constitution." Slip op. at 19. I agree that it does not. However,
as I have explained, where section 1 of the education article of
the 1870 Illinois Constitution excluded the judicial and executive
departments, the education system provision in the 1970 Constitu-
tion embraces all three branches of state government, including the
judiciary. This court stated long ago:
"To the judiciary is confided the power and the duty of
interpreting the laws and the constitution whenever they
are judicially presented for consideration. Hence it
becomes our duty to determine what is the meaning of the
laws passed by the legislature, and, also, whether those
laws are such as the legislature was authorized by the
constitution to pass." People ex rel. Billings v.
Bissell, 19 Ill. 229, 231 (1857).
Accord Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137, 177-78, 2 L. Ed. 60, 73-74 (1803).
Indeed, the judicial role of construing the constitution and
determining if it has been violated is essential to our form of
government. Accordingly, as the highest court of this state, it is
the function and duty of the supreme court to act as the final
arbiter of the Illinois Constitution. People ex rel. Harrod v.
Illinois Courts Comm'n, 69 Ill. 2d 445, 458 (1977) (and cases cited
therein); Billings, 19 Ill. at 232; accord United States v. Nixon,
418 U.S. 683, 704-05, 41 L. Ed. 2d 1039, 1062, 94 S. Ct. 3090, 3106
(1974).
The majority fears "legislating" in the field of public
education. Slip op. at 19-20. The majority concludes that the issue
of disparities in educational services and resources among school
districts is a political question and, thus, nonjusticiable. Slip
op. at 20-22. Indeed, the majority would deny the judicial
department of state government jurisdiction over this issue even if
the judiciary gave great deference to the legislative and executive
departments in defining and regulating educational quality. Slip
op. at 22-23.
Out of fear of entering a "political thicket" (see Colegrove
v. Green, 328 U.S. 549, 556, 90 L. Ed. 1432, 1436, 66 S. Ct. 1198,
1201 (1946)), the majority completely abdicates its constitutional
duty to interpret the Illinois Constitution. The doctrine at issue
here "is one of `political questions,' not one of `political
cases.' The courts cannot reject as `no law suit' a bona fide
controversy as to whether some action denominated `political'
exceeds constitutional authority." Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186,
217, 7 L. Ed. 2d 663, 686, 82 S. Ct. 691, 710 (1962).
Of course, courts cannot exercise legislative powers or compel
their proper action. Donovan v. Holzman, 8 Ill. 2d 87, 93 (1956);
People ex rel. Huempfner v. Benson, 294 Ill. 236, 239 (1920).
However, "the judiciary has always had the right and duty to review
all legislative acts in the light of the provisions and limitations
of our basic charter. The mere fact that political rights and
questions are involved does not create immunity from judicial
review." Donovan, 8 Ill. 2d at 93; accord Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486, 549, 23 L. Ed. 2d 491, 532, 89 S. Ct. 1944, 1978 (1969).
This court has not hesitated to invalidate long-standing practices
under statutes that offend the Illinois Constitution. Wolfson v.
Avery, 6 Ill. 2d 78, 95 (1955). It is the duty of the judiciary "to
interpret laws and protect the rights of individuals against acts
beyond the scope of legislative power." Benson, 294 Ill. at 239.
The best example of a "political case" is one involving
legislative apportionment. The 1970 Illinois Constitution confers
upon the supreme court original and exclusive jurisdiction over
actions concerning redistricting the state legislature. Ill. Const.
1970, art. IV, 3(b). The constitutional function of the supreme
court "is to review what has been done by the body charged with
that responsibility to determine if it has comported itself and
discharged its responsibility in a lawful, legal manner. If it is
determined that such has been done, that is the end of the matter."
People ex rel. Burris v. Ryan, 147 Ill. 2d 270, 301 (1991) (Heiple,
J., concurring).
In apportionment, this court's "historic function does not
give us the right to indirectly exercise the legislative function
by striking down a redistricting merely because we conceive that it
might have been done better. The complicated considerations
involved require careful study and a weighing of factors." Donovan,
8 Ill. 2d at 93. Rather, this court's role is limited solely to
determining whether or not the legislature complied with the
constitution:
"The drawing of a reapportionment map is essentially
a political and not a judicial process. It becomes
judicial only if the parties who have the responsibility
of drawing a map violate the law and produce a legally
unacceptable map. A map that is politically unacceptable
to one political party is not, for that reason, legally
unacceptable. The courts must necessarily extend latitude
to the political and governmental authorities in
discharging their duties. Otherwise, the courts would
become a political rather than a judicial institution."
(Emphasis in original.) Burris, 147 Ill. 2d at 302
(Heiple, J., concurring).
Although this court is appropriately sensitive to its limited role,
it has never abandoned its constitutional function to determine
solely whether or not the legislature has complied with the
constitution. Donovan, 8 Ill. 2d at 93; People ex rel. Woodyatt v.
Thompson, 155 Ill. 451, 462, 480 (1895).
As with a reapportionment map, I believe that the judiciary
cannot strike down the Illinois public school funding scheme merely
because it might have been done better. However, it is the
constitutional function of this court to determine solely whether
or not the Illinois public school funding scheme comports with the
education system provision.
Giving great deference to the legislative and executive
departments of state government, I believe that the education
system provision establishes a constitutional floor regarding
educational adequacy. That provision imposes a constitutional
responsibility on the entire state government. It is the duty of
the judicial department to adjudicate the nature of that responsi-
bility. See Campaign for Fiscal Equity, Inc. v. State, 86 N.Y.2d 307, 315, 655 N.E.2d 661, 665, 631 N.Y.S.2d 565, 569 (1995).
Despite the stark disparities in educational resources and
opportunity alleged in this record, the majority concludes that the
subject of educational quality is so important that only the
political departments of state government, and not the judiciary,
may play a role in outlining its parameters. Slip op. at 21-22. I
believe, however, that education is too precious a commodity for
the judiciary to permit such a constitutional violation.
A public school education is not "merely some governmental
`benefit' indistinguishable from other forms of social welfare
legislation." Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202, 221, 72 L. Ed. 2d 786,
801, 102 S. Ct. 2382, 2396 (1982). Courts have repeatedly
recognized that a public school education is vital in two ways.
First, it prepares individuals for participation as citizens; its
deprivation has a lasting impact on the life of the child. Second,
it maintains our basic institutions and, indeed, preserves the
values on which our society rests. Plyler, 457 U.S. at 221, 72 L. Ed. 2d at 801, 102 S. Ct. at 2396-97; Ambach v. Norwick, 441 U.S. 68, 76-78, 60 L. Ed. 2d 49, 56-57, 99 S. Ct. 1589, 1594-95 (1979)
(and authorities cited therein).
Regarding the importance of a public school education on the
individual citizen, the following has been recognized:
" `Today, education is perhaps the most important
function of state and local governments. Compulsory
school attendance laws and the great expenditures for
education both demonstrate our recognition of the
importance of education to our democratic society. It is
required in the performance of our most basic public
responsibilities, even service in the armed forces. It is
the very foundation of good citizenship. Today it is a
principal instrument in awakening the child to cultural
values, in preparing him for later professional training,
and in helping him to adjust normally to his environment.
In these days, it is doubtful that any child may
reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied
the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity,
where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right
which must be made available to all on equal terms.' "
Plyler, 457 U.S. at 222-23, 72 L. Ed. 2d at 803, 102 S. Ct. at 2397-98, quoting Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 493, 98 L. Ed. 873, 880, 74 S. Ct. 686, 691
(1954).
Education also plays a "pivotal role *** in sustaining our
political and cultural heritage" (Plyler, 457 U.S. at 221, 72 L. Ed. 2d at 802, 102 S. Ct. at 2397):
"The `American people have always regarded education and
[the] acquisition of knowledge as matters of supreme
importance.' [Citation.] We have recognized `the public
schools as a most vital civic institution for the
preservation of a democratic system of government,'
[citation] and as the primary vehicle for transmitting
`the values on which our society rests.' [Citation.]
`[S]ome degree of education is necessary to prepare
citizens to participate effectively and intelligently in
our open political system if we are to preserve freedom
and independence.' [Citation.] `*** In addition,
education provides the basic tools by which individuals
might lead economically productive lives to the benefit
of us all. In sum, education has a fundamental role in
maintaining the fabric of our society. We cannot ignore
the significant social costs borne by our Nation when
select groups are denied the means to absorb the values
and skills upon which our social order rests." Plyler,
457 U.S. at 221, 72 L. Ed. 2d at 801-02, 102 S. Ct. at
2397.
Despite the inestimable value of a public school education,
the majority forever forecloses any judicial inquiry into whether
the legislative and executive departments of our state government
conform to the education system provision. Regardless of how
abysmal educational resources and opportunity become in poor school
districts, and how severe the disparities in educational quality
grow among school districts, the judiciary is now powerless to
enforce the constitution. I would hold that count III of
plaintiffs' complaint presents a justiciable issue.

Sufficiency of Count III
The appellate court read plaintiffs' complaint as demanding
equal educational resources and services among all school
districts, and the same instruction in all schools. 267 Ill. App.
3d at 21-22.
However, it is important to identify what plaintiffs allege.
Plaintiffs do not allege that the education system provision
mandates equal funding among all school districts, or uniform
instruction in all schools. Rather, plaintiffs contend that the
state cannot provide a high quality education to some students, but
not to others. Plaintiffs allege that the Illinois public school
funding scheme creates significant disparities between the richest
and poorest school districts in the quality of educational
resources and services provided. Plaintiffs further allege that,
due to these disparities, the state fails to provide students in
poor school districts "an efficient system of high quality public
educational institutions and services." Ill. Const. 1970, art. X,
1.
To the appellate court, plaintiffs' complaint did not allege
"that plaintiffs are being denied a minimally adequate education."
The court read the complaint as resting "not on the adequacy of
education in a district, but on differences in benefits and
opportunities offered from district to district." 267 Ill. App. 3d
at 21.
However, plaintiffs' complaint clearly alleges that the
disparities between rich and poor school districts cause children
in poor school districts to receive an inferior education.
Plaintiffs allege that educational resources and services in poor
school districts are inferior not only in comparison to those
provided in rich school districts, but are intrinsically so
inferior and inadequate as to harm "[e]ach of the plaintiff school
districts and each of the plaintiff schoolchildren" and to violate
the education system provision.
Further, the appellate court appears to have rejected
plaintiffs' underlying correlation between educational resources
and services and educational quality. The court concluded:
"To allege that certain educational resources are
unavailable in poorer school districts, or inferior to
those in wealthier districts, does not compel the
conclusion that the funding provided by the State's
financing system is insufficient to provide an adequate
education." 267 Ill. App. 3d at 22.
I flatly reject such a conclusion. I presently accept the
following propositions. A correlation exists between educational
resources and educational quality or opportunity. Lesser
educational resources, below a certain level, results in lower
educational quality or opportunity. Conversely, the improvement of
public education funding, up to a certain level, would
correlatively improve educational quality and uniformity of
opportunity. These propositions are widely recognized. See, e.g.,
Edgewood Independent School District v. Kirby, 777 S.W.2d 391, 393
(Tex. 1989); Board of Education, Levittown Union Free School
District v. Nyquist, 57 N.Y.2d 27, 38 n.3, 439 N.E.2d 359, 363 n.3,
453 N.Y.S.2d 643, 647 n.3 (1982); McDaniel v. Thomas, 248 Ga. 632,
637-38, 285 S.E.2d 156, 160-61 (1981); Note, State Constitutional
Analyses of Public School Finance Reform Cases: Myth or Methodol-
ogy?, 45 Vanderbilt L. Rev. 129, 129-32 (1991); J. Kozol, Savage
Inequalities: Children in America's Schools 40-82, 236 (1991)
(discussing, inter alia, disparities in educational funding,
services, and resources, and corresponding disparities in
educational quality, between Chicago public schools and suburban
school districts); see generally C. Tesconi & E. Hurwitz, Education
for Whom? The Question of Equal Educational Opportunity (1974).
Indeed, these propositions form the very premise upon which
the Illinois public school funding scheme is based. The state's
supplementary aid is "designed to ameliorate in part the dollar
disparities generated by a system of local taxation." Robinson v.
Cahill, 62 N.J. 473, 481, 303 A.2d 273, 277 (1973); A. Schwartz,
Illinois School Finance--A Primer, 56 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 831, 836-38
(1980). However, I acknowledge that these propositions are not
universally accepted. See, e.g., San Antonio Independent School
District v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1, 42-43, 36 L. Ed. 2d 16, 48-49,
93 S. Ct. 1278, 1302 (1973); Hornbeck v. Somerset County Board of
Education, 295 Md. 597, 639, 458 A.2d 758, 780 (1983); Lujan v.
Colorado State Board of Education, 649 P.2d 1005, 1018 (Colo.
1982).
True, the mere allegation of lack of educational resources
does not compel the conclusion that the public school funding
scheme actually fails to provide an adequate education.
Nonetheless, it cannot be said that count III is legally
insufficient. It must be remembered that this case comes to us from
the dismissal of plaintiffs' complaint. A complaint should not be
dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it clearly appears
that no set of facts could be proved under the allegations that
would entitle the party to relief. Meerbrey, 139 Ill. 2d at 473;
Ogle v. Fuiten, 102 Ill. 2d 356, 360-61 (1984).
After carefully reviewing count III, I conclude that the
complaint states a cause of action. I would reverse the trial
court's dismissal of count III of plaintiffs' complaint.

Available Relief
I would hold only that count III of plaintiffs' complaint
states a cause of action, emphasizing that this holding would not
have been a final judgment on the merits. At trial, plaintiffs
would have had the burden of presenting evidence to support their
allegations. However, under the circumstances of this case, I
believe that it is appropriate to note what relief I believe would
have been available to plaintiffs. See Horton v. Meskill, 172 Conn.
615, 650, 376 A.2d 359, 375 (1977).
If the trial court had ultimately entered judgment in favor of
plaintiffs, then it would have been up to the legislative and
executive departments of state government to recreate and reestab-
lish a public school funding scheme that would comply with the
Illinois Constitution. The trial court could not have instructed
the General Assembly to enact any specific legislation or to raise
taxes. Likewise, the trial court could not have instructed the
Governor how to implement or enforce any public school funding
policy or plan. The trial court could not have retained juris-
diction of the case to enforce the court's orders.
It is the duty of the judicial department of Illinois
government only to determine what the Illinois Constitution re-
quires. It is the duty of the legislative and executive departments
to carry out that requirement. I am confident that they would have
proceeded with their duty if they had been called to do so. See
Bismarck Public School District No. 1 v. State, 511 N.W.2d 247, 263
(N.D. 1994); Rose v. Council for Better Education, Inc., 790 S.W.2d 186, 212, 214 (Ky. 1989); Edgewood, 777 S.W.2d at 399.

CONCLUSION
The legislative and executive departments of Illinois
government need such a call. As of this writing, it is questionable
whether they have met their constitutional duty under the education
system provision. According to one study, in the 1989-90 school
year, only one state had a greater level of disparity than Illinois
in resources available to elementary and secondary school
districts. Research Note, Variations in Expenditures Per Pupil
Within the States: Evidence From Census Data for 1989-90, 19 J.
Educ. Fin. 358 (1994).
Unfortunately, by holding that the high quality aspect of the
education system provision is nonjusticiable, the majority today
abandons its responsibility to interpret the Illinois Constitution.
The judiciary joins the legislative and executive departments in
failing to fulfill our state government's constitutional responsi-
bility of providing for an efficient system of high quality public
education.
For the foregoing reasons, I would reverse the judgments of
the appellate court and the circuit court of Cook County as to
count III. Accordingly, I respectfully dissent from that part of
the majority opinion that upholds the trial court's dismissal of
that count.