department.”188 The Illinois Supreme Court is thus fully capable of ruling on the constitutionality
of the state’s education funding system, and should not dismiss future cases as nonjusticiable
B. Fundamental Rights and the Article X Education Clause Promise of a Minimally Adequate
Once a plaintiff surmounts the “political question hurdle” erected by Edgar and Lewis E.,
he will have to persuade the court that it should apply strict scrutiny review to the funding system
because it infringes on a fundamental right promised by the Illinois state constitution.189
Otherwise, the court will apply a highly deferential rational basis review that grants the funding
scheme a strong presumption of constitutionality.190 This Part will thus examine the Illinois
Supreme Court’s refusal to find a fundamental right to education within the Illinois
The plaintiffs in both Edgar and Lewis E. essentially made two distinct fundamental right
arguments, one based on equal protection/due process principals, and one based on Article X,
Section 1 of the Illinois State Constitution.192 In both cases, the Illinois Supreme Court rejected
the plaintiffs’ equal protection/due process complaints by strictly adhering to the U.S. Supreme
Court’s ruling in Rodriguez.193 Much like its application of the federal political question doctrine,
the Illinois Supreme Court’s lockstep adherence to Rodriguez appears unfounded.194 State court
constitutions and high courts are fundamentally different than their federal counterparts, unbound
by the strict contours of the Federal Constitution.195 As such, state courts have considerably
greater power to expand on personal rights and liberties than federal courts, and should not
necessarily adhere to federal precedent.196 Furthermore, the presence of a dedicated educational
article in the Illinois State Constitution at least suggests a stronger entitlement to education than
does the Federal Constitution, which is wholly silent on the matter.197
188 Baker, 369 U.S. at 217. During its analysis of the 1970 Constitutional Convention record, the Edgar court found that the education
article was meant to delegate exclusive responsibility for the education system to the state legislature. Edgar, 672 N.E.2d at 1190. This
is despite the fact that delegates to the 1970 Constitutional Convention specifically replaced the phrase “General Assembly” with “the
state” when it rewrote the constitution’s education article. Id. The majority opinion in Edgar glosses over this point, essentially stating
that because education issues are a matter for the legislature only, the change in wording could not have expanded responsibility for
public education to all three branches of the state government. Id. (“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.”). The court’s circular logic does not provide a meaningful answer to the
“textually demonstrable constitutional commitment” prong of the Baker standard, and seems to ignore contrary proof within the
constitutional convention record. See id. at 1200-02 (Freeman, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part) (arguing that, based on the
constitutional convention record, the 1970 delegates’ use of the phrase “the state” was a deliberate delegation of responsibility to all
three branches of the Illinois state government.).
189 This Article will ignore arguments that the funding system discriminates against a suspect class (such as the poor or racial/ethnic
minorities). Suspect class arguments have generally been unsuccessful in other states. See supra Part II (discussing the shift towards
education clause “adequacy” claims following Rodriguez). Additionally, suspect class arguments did not factor significantly into
either the Edgar or Lewis E. decisionvs. See supra Part III-C (summarizing the plaintiffs’ arguments in Edgar and Lewis E. as well as
the court’s analysis).
190 See Edgar, 672 N.E.2d at 1180-96 (refusing to apply strict scrutiny to the court’s review of the Illinois education funding system,
and in turn upholding it under rational basis review); see also supra Part III-C (summarizing the Edgar decision). Although, as will be
shown in Part IV-C, plaintiffs may be able to make a strong case against the funding serving even a rational basis. See infra Part IV-C.
191 See infra Part IV-B (analyzing the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention record and what it suggests about the meaning of Article
192 Edgar, 672 N.E.2d at 1182; Lewis E. v. Spagnolo, 710 N.E.2d 798, 801, 812 (Ill. 1999).
193 Edgar, 672 N.E.2d at 1193-94; Lewis E., 710 N.E.2d at 805.
194 See supra Part IV-A (discussing differences in state and federal courts and why the federal legal doctrines should not necessarily be
applied in state constitutional cases).
195 See Brennan, supra note 78 and accompanying text.
197 See Banchard, supra note 33, at 256 (“Ascribing ‘nonfundamental’ status to educational rights in spite of express education clauses
in the state constitutions indicates reluctance on the part of courts to serve as protectors of political minority interests.”).