Republic legislators.286 These instances of past statewide support for reform suggest that future
challenges to current funding system can once again be built.
C. The Illinois Supreme Court Should Hear Future Funding Litigation on the Merits, and Should
Find a State Constitutional Guarantee of a Minimally Adequate Education
Provided that future plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment that the current Illinois school
funding system is unconstitutional, the Illinois Supreme Court should not continue to dismiss
such claims as non-justiciable political questions.287 Even if the court applies the federal Baker
standards for determining when an issue is political—a choice that is itself questionable—
education finance litigation is well within the ambit of the judiciary.288 The advent of state and
nationwide academic standards and increased standardized testing, as well as the structure of
Illinois’ school funding itself, provides easily comparable statistics with which the court can
judge the fundamental constitutionality of the funding system.289 Moreover, there is nothing in
the court’s past political question jurisprudence to suggest that it is prohibited from ruling on
politically sensitive issues so long as it is not, in effect, legislating from the bench.290 Simply put,
education finance cases require the court to do nothing more than its basic function—to judge the
constitutionality of the law.291
Once past the “political question hurdle” established by Edgar and Lewis E., the court
should reexamine Article X of the Illinois State Constitution and find that it guarantees some
minimal level of educational quality. Although the Edgar court appeared to be correct in its
determination that Article X does not create a mandate for centralized state funding of the public
education system, it largely failed to address other salient elements of the clause.292 Most
notably, the court’s refusal to clearly define the meaning of “high-quality,” and instead
dismissing it under their aforementioned political question analysis, leaves open the potential that
Article X does in fact guarantee a minimally adequate education for Illinois students.293 Records
from the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention suggest that the use of “high-quality” was meant
to promise something more than the “good” education promised in the constitution’s original
education article.294 Moreover, comments from delegates following the convention, while not
legally binding, further suggest that they did intend for Article X to catalyze education-funding
286 See supra Part III-B; see also CTR. FOR TAX & BUDGET ACCOUNTABILITY, supra note 11, at 6-7 (discussing generally how the
state funding system negatively impacts both urban and downstate schools).
287 See supra Part IV-A (arguing that the Edgar and Lewis E. courts erred in their use of the federal political question doctrine to find
education funding issues nonjusticiable).
288 See supra Part IV-A (arguing that past Illinois Supreme Court precedent in political question cases should allow the court to rule on
education funding cases so long as it does not actively fashion a new funding scheme on its own).
289 See supra Part IV-A (arguing that the Illinois Supreme Court has had readily-available standards with which it can judge
educational quality since at least Edgar, and that recent changes in standardized testing have only made such comparisons easier to
290 See supra Part IV-A (arguing that the most recent Illinois political question cases allow the court to rule on issues that are
291 More recent school funding litigation has pressed the court only for a declaration of unconstitutionality, and has specifically
acknowledged that the court should not formulate its own funding reform measures. See Complaint, supra note 30, at 15; BUS. &
PROF’L PEOPLE FOR THE PUB. INTEREST, FREQUENTL Y ASKED QUESTIONS REGARDING THE BPI/SIDLEY SCHOOL FUNDING LA WSUI T 1
(Mar. 24, 2010), available at http://www.bpichicago.org/documents/FREQUENTLYASKEDQUESTIONS.3.24TOUSE.pdf.
Moreover, state supreme courts in other states have similarly emphasized the role of the legislature in reforming funding schemes. See
Orfield, supra note 255, at 117 (noting that the Kentucky Supreme Court emphasized in Rose v. Council for Better Education that
reform is solely the legislature’s duty).
292 See supra Part IV-B (arguing that the Edgar court failed to adequately determine the meaning of “high-quality” in Article X).
293 See supra Part IV-B (arguing that the use of “high-quality” in the 1970 Convention redraft of Article X was intended by the
delegates to increase the minimum level of education adequacy promised by the Illinois State Constitution); RECORD OF
PROCEEDINGS, supra note 1, at 767 (providing a transcript of debate regarding the inclusion of “high-quality”).
294 See supra Part IV-B; RECORD OF PROCEEDINGS, supra note 1, at 767.
295 See supra Part IV-B (quoting Delegate Malcolm Kamin as stating his belief that the new Article X would lead to meaningful
education finance reform in Illinois).