Finding clearly defined education rights within Article X of the Illinois Constitution,
however, may be difficult. In Edgar, the plaintiff’s Article X claim made two separate
arguments: 1) an “efficient” system of education required substantial equality in funding between
districts; and 2) the article’s promise of a “high quality” education guaranteed some minimum
level of quality.198 For the first time, the Illinois Supreme Court conducted a substantial
interpretation of Article X, Section 1.199 The court’s subsequent reading appears to be largely—
but not wholly—correct.200
A 1975 report on the 1970 Convention Education Committee, which included post-convention interviews with many of the delegates, confirms much of the Edgar court’s
analysis.201 The use of the word “efficient” in the 1870 education article had been read by Illinois
courts to mean that school district boundaries had to be drawn so as not to exclude or severely
inconvenience students.202 With little debate, the 1970 delegates agreed that the use of efficient in
their revision would simply retain the legal precedent developed since 1870, and did not mean
equal funding.203 More critically, the Edgar court correctly determined Article X’s final line, a
promise that “the State has the primary responsibility for financing the system of public
education,” is only a non-binding proclamation and does not require the majority of school
funding to come from state funds (as oppose to local property tax revenue).204 The 1970
Convention rejected two different amendments to Article X that would have required the state to
provide the majority of funding for public schools as well as limit total contributions to school
funding from local property taxes.205 Subsequently, the Convention settled on Article X’s present
language, explicitly proposed as a mere “hortatory” statement of intent.206
Still, other elements of Article X remained undefined in the Edgar court’s analysis and
may provide a guarantee of some minimal level of education.207 Most notably, the use of the
phrase “high-quality,” dismissed by the Edgar and Lewis E. courts under their political question
analysis, was never clearly defined during the 1970 Convention and only briefly debated.208
198 Edgar, 672 N.E.2d at 1183. The Lewis E. plaintiffs, although attempting to distinguish their case from Edgar, essentially made the
same argument regarding the use of “high quality” in the article—that it guaranteed some minimally adequate level of education.
Lewis E., 710 N.E.2d at 802.
199 Edgar, 672 N.E.2d at 1186-87.
200 Compare id. at 1185 (“The framers of the 1970 Constitution embraced this limited construction that the constitutional efficiency
requirement authorized judicial review of school district boundaries.”), with BURESH, supra note 2, at 84 (explaining that the 1970
Convention education committee intended the promise of an “efficient” education system to retain the meaning originally assigned to
it under the 1870 constitution, just as the Edgar court had read the provision).
201 See BURESH, supra note 2, at 84.
202 Edgar, 672 N.E.2d at 1185 (“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 . . . 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.”).
203 See BURESH, supra note 2, at 84 (stating that the 1970 Convention education committee believed that “efficient” would incorporate
the meaning originally assigned in the 1870 article).
204 See Edgar, 672 N.E.2d at 1187 (describing Article X’s final line as a “purely hortatory statement of principle”).
205 See BURESH, supra note 2, at 84-86, 114-18 (summarizing the debate over Article X’s final sentence).
206 See id. After proposing the language eventually included in Article X, Delegate Dawn Netsch noted that “while [Article X’s final
sentence] is not legally enforceable, I hope that it will function as a conscience to the General Assembly to assume a greater
proportion of the financing of the public schools of the state.” Id. at 114.
207 See BURESH, supra note 2, at 126 (discussing the ultimate intent of the delegates in re-writing Article X); infra Part III-C
(summarizing the Edgar opinion).
208 See RECORD OF PROCEEDINNGS, supra note 1, at 767. Conversation regarding the meaning and intent of “high quality” was largely
limited to the following:
MR. GARRISON: Mr. President, I would like to direct attention to line 6 of section 1, where the term, “high-quality public
educational institutions and services,” is used.
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.