developed in Baker v. Carr, to the adequacy issue.126 The court found that there was “a lack of
judicially discoverable and manageable standards” for defining “high quality” and determining
whether the plaintiffs had received an adequate education.127 The court further emphasized that a
ruling on the issue would be anti-democratic because the justices were less politically accountable
to the public than state representatives.128 Thus, the court found that claims of inadequate
educational opportunity were essentially political questions best left to the General Assembly.129
With the education clause issues settled, the court turned to the plaintiffs’ state equal
protection argument, dismissing the claim based on the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in
Rodriguez.130 Because wealth was not a suspect classification and because education was not a
fundamental right, rational basis review would apply.131 As in Rodriguez, the court found that
local control of public schools was a legitimate state interest effectively served by the state’s
The Edgar court’s ruling was a stunning defeat for education reformers. Not only had the
court rendered Article X’s language largely toothless,133 but it also erected a barrier between
future litigants and the court by finding school funding issues outside the purview of the
judiciary.134 Three years later, a second school funding case affirmed and reinforced the court’s
In 1999, children and parents in Illinois’ East St. Louis’ school district came before the
Illinois Supreme Court seeking a declaration that the school funding system produced
underfunded, dilapidated schools within their district, and thus violated Article X.136 Once again,
the plaintiffs made an adequacy claim, as well as claims based on the state’s due process clause,
Illinois School Code, and common law principles.137 The court examined the education clause
claim first and reaffirmed its holding in Edgar, that it had no authority to judge the adequacy of
126 Id. at 1191. In Baker, an equal protection case involving discriminatory political districting, the United States Supreme Court
provided a six-factor test to determine when an issue was “political” and thus outside the gambit of the courts. Id. If the issue involved
any of the following six factors, it could not be reviewed by the court:
[( 1)] a textually demonstrable constitutional commitment of the issue to a coordinate political department; [( 2)]
or a lack of judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolving it; [( 3)] or the impossibility of
deciding without an initial policy determination of a kind clearly for non-judicial discretion; [( 4)] or the
impossibility of a court's undertaking independent resolution without expressing lack of respect due coordinate
branches of government; [( 5)] or an unusual need for unquestioning adherence to a political decision already
made; [( 6)] or the potentiality of embarrassment from multifarious pronouncements by various departments on
Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 217 (1962). See infra Part IV-A for an analysis of the Illinois Supreme Court’s use of the Baker standard.
127 Edgar, 672 N.E.2d at 1191.
128 Id. Note, however, that Illinois Supreme Court justices are elected, and serve ten-year terms. ILL. CONST. art. VI, §§ 3, 10.
129 Edgar, 672 N.E.2d at 1191 (noting that to rule on the merits would be a violation of the separation of powers); see O’Neill, supra
note 27 (discussing how a minority of state courts, including Illinois, have avoided full adjudication of adequacy claims based on the
political question doctrine and deference for the separation of powers). See generally NOWAK & ROTUNDA, supra note 27, at 58-66
(providing a general overview of the United States Supreme Court’s political question jurisprudence).
130 Edgar, 672 N.E.2d at 1193-94; see supra Part II-B (summarizing the United States Supreme Court’s ruling in Rodriguez).
131 Edgar, 672 N.E.2d at 1193-96.
132 Id. at 1195-96.
133 This is despite the fact that some have read Illinois’ education clause as one of the strongest in the nation. See William E. Thro,
Note, To Render Them Safe: The Analysis of State Constitutional Provisions in Public School Finance Reform Litigation, 75 VA. L.
REV. 1639, 1667-69 (1989) (noting that Illinois’ education clause is among the strongest worded clauses of all state constitutions).
134 See Lewis E. v. Spagnolo, 710 N.E.2d 798, 816 (Ill. 1999) (Freeman, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part) (stating that in
Edgar the “court shut the courthouse door to claims alleging violations of section 1 of the education article of the Illinois
Constitution”); see also NOWAK & ROTUNDA, supra note 27 (“Unlike other restrictions on judicial review—doctrines such as case or
controversy requirements, standing, ripeness and prematurity—all of which may be cured by different factual circumstances, a holding
of nonjusticiability [premised on the political question doctrine] is absolute in its foreclosure of judicial scrutiny.”).
135 Lewis E., 710 N.E.2d at 800.
136 Id. at 800-01.
137 Id. at 801-02.