state exams testing student achievement in core subject matters.178 The Illinois Standards
Achievement Test (“ISAT”), administered in grades three through eight, tests students in math,
reading, science, and writing.179 The Prairie State Achievement Exam (“PSAE”), taken each year
by all eleventh grade students, is the high school equivalent to the ISAT.180 Scoring on these tests
is weighed against statewide standards, allowing for comparison of one district to another, and
results are readily accessible online.181 Furthermore, Illinois’ education funding system, which
categorizes districts into “foundation,” “alternative,” and “flat grant” districts based on their local
property wealth, provides for a convenient set of “district wealth” standards against which student
performance may be compared.182
A brief examination of the remaining Baker standards further suggests education finance
litigation does not raise a political question. Without specific constitutional or statutory language
to indicate otherwise, there is no reason to believe there is an “unusual need for unquestioning
adherence to a political decision already made” or “the potentiality of embarrassment from
multifarious pronouncements by various departments on one question.”183 Presumably, plaintiffs
in future education litigation would again merely seek a declaration that the funding system is
unconstitutional, fully allowing the state legislature to formulate a new system without judicial
interference.184 Moreover, there is nothing in the text of Article X, Section 1 to suggest a need for
exceptional judicial deference.185 The same basic reasoning also indicates the Illinois Supreme
Court would not have to make an “initial policy determination of a kind clearly for non-judicial
discretion.”186 Additionally, a judicial decision on the constitutionality of a piece of legislation
would not show a “lack of respect due [to the] coordinate branches of government”—weighing
the constitutionality of law is, after all, a primary function of the court.187 Finally, there is no
“textually demonstrable constitutional commitment of the issue to a coordinate political
178 See Comprehensive Changes, supra note 177. The tests are components of the Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks required
under No Child Left Behind, the major federal education reform legislation. No Child Left Behind/Annual Yearly Progress:
Frequently Asked Questions, ILL. STATE BOARD OF EDUC., http://www.isbe.net/ayp/htmls/faq.htm (last visited Oct. 26, 2013). See
generally Elementary and Secondary Education Act, U.S. DEP’T OF EDUC., http://www.ed.gov/esea (last visited Oct. 26, 2013) (for
background information on NCLB).
179 Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT), ILL. INTERACTIVE REPORT CARD, http://iirc.niu.edu/Tests.aspx?isat (last updated Oct.
25, 2013) [hereinafter ISAT]; see Student Assessment Illinois, supra note 14. The ISAT measures individual student achievement
relative to the statewide learning standards developed by the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”), evaluating students by
subject according to four performance levels: exceeds standards, meets standards, below standards, and academic warning. See ISAT,
supra; Student Assessment Illinois, supra note 14.
180 Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE), ILL. INTERACTIVE REPORT CARD, http://iirc.niu.edu/Tests.aspx?psae (last updated Oct.
25, 2013) [hereinafter PSAE]; see also Student Assessment Prairie State, supra note 14. The PSAE evaluates students based on their
ACT scores (all students in Illinois are required to take the ACT during the first day of the two-day PSAE), a science assessment
developed by the Illinois State Board of Education, and additional reading and math exams developed by the ACT corporation. Id.
181 See ILLINOIS INTERACTIVE REPORT CARD, supra note 8 (providing an interactive internet application for users to view and
compare test scores, district financial information, and many other key educational metrics); 2013 Illinois School Report Cards, CHI.
TRIB., http://schools.chicagotribune.com/ (last visited Nov. 1, 2013).
182 See supra Part III-A (explaining Illinois’ school funding system).
183 Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 217 (1962); see ILL. CONST. art. X, § 1 (note that there is no language that could reasonably be read to
suggest that the Court must avoid education issues).
184 Indeed, recent litigation before the Illinois Supreme Court did seek declaratory judgment. See Complaint, supra note 30, at 15;
Public Education—School Funding Litigation, BUS. & PROF. PEOPLE FOR THE PUB. INT., http://www.bpichicago.org/pe_litigation.php
(last visited Oct. 26, 2013) [hereinafter Public Education—School Funding Litigation] (providing additional information about the
suit). Given the Illinois Supreme Court’s extreme reluctance in Edgar to substantively critique or amend the state’s education funding
system, it seems unlikely the court would be willing to do anything more than simply strike down the funding system as
unconstitutional. See Comm. for Educ. Rights v. Edgar, 672 N.E.2d 1178, 1192 (Ill. 1996) (“[W]e will not under the guise of
constitutional interpretation, presume to lay down guidelines or ultimatums for [the legislature].” (internal quotation marks omitted)).
185 ILL. CONST. art. X, § 1.
186 Id. Like the Donovan court’s assessment of political districts, the court would be making a judgment of the constitutionality of the
funding system in general (as a finance system predicated on local property wealth), and not an assessment of the specific mechanics
of the scheme. See Donovan v. Holzman, 132 N.E.2d 501, 506 (Ill. 1956).
187 Baker, 369 U.S. at 217; see ILL. CONST. art. VI, § 4 (granting the Illinois Supreme Court final appellate jurisdiction over questions
of law decided in lower courts).