consider the meaning of “high quality” leaves open the possibility of adequacy claims.214 Given
these ambiguities, future challenges to Illinois education funding system should continue to make
adequacy claims based on Article X.215
C. The Illinois Supreme Court Should Not Defer to “Local Control” of Public Schools
The final impediment to education finance reform is the public policy preference for
“local control,” the idea that communities, parents, and local school boards should have
maximum say in the operations of schools.216 In Rodriguez, the U.S. Supreme Court, after
determining that rational basis review was most appropriate for judging Texas’ funding system,
found local control to be a legitimate state interest rationally served by the financing scheme.217
Similarly, the Illinois Supreme Court in Edgar deferred to the concept of local control after
refusing to find a suspect class or fundamental right to education harmed by Illinois’ funding
scheme.218 The court’s deference is misguided. There is nothing constitutionally binding the
court to the idea of local control, and the very idea of local control is becoming increasingly
irrelevant as state and national changes impact the fundamental operation of public education in
Despite strong judicial deference to local control, there is nothing in either the United
States Constitution or Illinois State Constitution immunizing the concept from the reach of the
judiciary.219 Local control is primarily manifested in Illinois through the existence of local school
boards, entities entirely defined by statute.220 Illinois’ local school boards have broad authority
under the Illinois School Code to hire and fire teachers, manage school curriculum, and contract,
however, the scope of their powers (and limitations) is enumerated by the state.221 Given that
local control is simply a policy choice established by statute, and that state courts often take on a
greater role in setting public policy, the Illinois Supreme Court’s deference to this concept is
Moreover, it is hard to argue that school districts and local school boards actually have
meaningful control over school funding.223 As Justice White’s dissent in Rodriguez forcefully
illustrates, property tax-based funding systems are quite unresponsive to the will of the locality.224
Like all districts, property-poor districts are free to tax at a higher rate than the statutorily
prescribed minimum; however, they may only be able to generate a fraction of what wealthier
districts can raise, even at tax rates several times that of wealthy districts.225 Moreover, even if
214 See supra Part III-C.
215 See infra Part V (proposing that future education finance litigants may be able to successfully challenge the state’s education
216 See Blanchard, supra note 33, at 279 (providing a general overview of the local control concept); Faber, supra note 57 (describing
local control of schools as a devolution of management control from the state to local school boards).
217 San Antonio Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1, 44, 49 (1973); see also supra Part II (summarizing the Rodriguez opinion).
218 Comm. for Educ. Rights v. Edgar, 672 N.E.2d 1178, 1193, 1195-96 (Ill. 1996); see also supra Part III-C (summarizing the Edgar
219 See U.S. CONST.; ILL. CONST.
220 105 ILL. COMP. STAT. ANN. 5/10-1 to 10-22. 19 (West 2013); see Faber, supra note 57 (“Legally, these local school districts are
agents of the state, created in accordance with state law for the purpose of implementing the state's responsibility.”).
221 105 ILL. COMP. STAT. ANN. 5/10-1 to 10-22. 19.
222 See Blanchard, supra note 33, at 273 (stating that, because state courts can issue binding advisory opinions, they are more involved
in setting public policy than federal courts bound by case in controversy requirements).
223 See id. at 281 (arguing that property tax-based school funding systems do not provide local control of schools for poor districts).
See generally Eric P. Christofferson, Note, Rodriguez Reexamined: The Misonomer of “Local Control” and a Constitutional Case for
Equitable Public School Funding, 90 GEO. L.J. 2553, 2575-76 (2002) (arguing against the use of local control to justify maintaining
property tax-based funding systems).
224 San Antonio Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1, 63-70 (1973) (White, J., dissenting) (explaining in detail how plaintiff’s
school district, despite its willingness to tax at a higher rate to achieve greater school funding, is circumstantially and statutorily
prevented from actually achieving school funding levels anywhere close to wealthier neighboring districts).
225 To illustrate using two of the districts referenced in the introduction to this Article, in 2012 Northbrook School District 28 had an
equalized assessed property (“EAV”) value of $977,894 per student, and taxed at a rate $1.89 per $100 EAV. ILLINOIS INTERACTIVE