The public schools enroll 2,067,000 students: 50% White, 25% Latino, 18% African American, and 4% Asian, with 50% living in poverty, and 9% learning English. The State spends $12,443 per pupil. (Most recent NCES data)
“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.” Ill. Const. art. 10, §1.
In 1973, in Blase v. State, the Illinois Supreme Court held that the constitution’s education provision merely expressed a goal and did not impose an obligation on the General Assembly.
In 1996, in Committee for Educational Rights v. Edgar, the State Supreme Court held that it did not have “judicially manageable standards” by which to determine whether the State was providing the education required by the Illinois Constitution.
In 1999, in Lewis E. v. Spagnolo, the same Court rejected plaintiffs’ attempt to distinguish their adequacy claim cases from Edgar and characterized the current case as “once again” asking the Court to “enter the arena of Illinois public school policy.”
In 2009, plaintiffs filed Chicago Urban League (CUL) v. State, alleging that the State school funding scheme has a demonstrable, disparate, and adverse impact on minority students, in violation of the Illinois Civil Rights Act. The parties are preparing for trial, and plaintiffs filed a motion for partial summary judgment, which is pending.
In 2012, the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed a lower Court dismissal of Carr v. Koch, in which taxpayers claimed the finance system violated the State constitution’s equal protection clause because residents of low-property-wealth districts pay higher tax rates but have lower per-pupil spending.