Lastly, the court should not avoid ruling on future funding cases out of deference for the
concept of “local control.”296 The current education funding system provides meaningful choice
only to the wealthiest districts, while poorer districts are politically and economically precluded
from affecting real funding changes at the local level.297 Local control has also ceded to state
oversight in many other areas, including curriculum planning, personnel decision making, and the
education of disabled students.298 Ultimately, local control is a policy preference, not a statutory
or constitutional mandate.299 The Illinois Supreme Court should not constrain its full authority in
the face of what may well be an antiquated policy choice for public schools.
D. The Illinois State Legislature Must Understand that Schools Should Not Be Funded Equally
While an examination of alternative school funding systems is beyond the scope of this
Article, it is worth noting that achieving complete equality in school funding may both be
impossible and unwise.300 Education funding schemes that redirect money away from wealthy,
academically successful school districts to poorer districts would prove highly unpopular.301
Furthermore, schools that are able to spend more on their students tend to perform better,302 and it
does not make sense to pull resources away from well-functioning districts. Beyond politics,
however, lies the fact that poor districts in both urban and rural areas may in fact require a greater
level of funding than suburban schools to properly address issues unique to their student
populations. Poorer school districts often serve students requiring more complex services,
including English as a Second Language instruction, services for students with learning
disabilities and/or psychiatric disorders, long-distance busing in rural areas, etc.303 Effective
education funding reform in Illinois must therefore account for the unique needs of school
districts across the state.304
296 See supra Part IV-C (arguing that, as a mere policy preference, there are no constitutional or prudential reasons why the Illinois
Supreme Court must defer to the concept of local).
297 See supra Part IV-C (arguing that only wealthy districts have the financial resources to experiment with their curriculum, hire more
highly-educated and talented teachers, etc., whereas poor districts are forced to tax between statutorily-specified minimum and
maximum rates and generally lack sufficient financial resources to affect change in their schools).
298 See supra Part IV-C (discussing the various testing and labor laws that have centralized control of Illinois schools in the state over
the past several years).
299 See supra Part IV-C (arguing that the Illinois Supreme Court is empowered to rule on the constitutionality of laws such as the
current funding system, and should not defer to a traditional policy preference).
300 During the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention, two different drafts of Article X that would have substantially equalized per-pupil funding in all schools were roundly rejected. See BURESH, supra note 2, at 84-86, 114-18 (summarizing the debate over Article
X Section 1’s final sentence). Furthermore, the amount of money a school requires to adequately fund its students’ education is
dependent on the needs and circumstances of its student body, including the prevalence of learning disabilities and other health issues.
See BAKER ET AL., supra note 5, at 7 (arguing that schools require different funding levels based on demographic differences in the
301 Take, as an example, the bitter debate over the 1992 Article X amendment proposal, which led to a fistfight between downstate and
suburban Chicago state representatives. See supra note 104 and accompanying text; see also BURESH, supra note 2, at 102 (noting that
a minority of delegates to the 1970 Constitutional Convention feared education funding reform would redirect funds from wealthy
districts to poor districts, at the expense of students in wealthier districts).
302 See supra Part V (discussing the impact of increased per-pupil expenditures and academic performance).
303 See BAKER ET AL., supra note 5, at 7 (“Student poverty — especially concentrated student poverty — is the most critical variable
affecting funding levels. Student and school poverty correlates with, and is a proxy for, a multitude of factors that impact upon the
costs of providing equal education opportunity— most notably, gaps in educational achievement, school district racial composition,
English language proficiency, and student mobility. State finance systems should deliver greater levels of funding to higher-poverty
versus lower-poverty settings, while controlling for differences in other cost factors.”).
304 The funding reforms devised by the Kentucky legislature following the Rose decision might serve as a model. Briefly, Kentucky’s
revised funding system created base-level grants for school districts that factor in the number of poor, disabled, and special education
students present in a district. See LAWRENCE O. PICUS ET AL., KY. DEP’T OF EDUC., ASSESSING THE EQUITY OF KENTUCKY’S SEEK
FORMULA: A TEN-YEAR ANALYSIS 3-5 (2001), available at http://education.ky.gov/districts/SEEK/Pages/Taxes.aspx (summarizing
the structure and impact of Kentucky’s education funding reforms). On top of these base grants, the Kentucky system provides
districts with several optional, property tax-based methods for supplementing revenues, and further provides additional state aid to
proper-poor districts. See id.; Orfield, supra note 255, at 119 (noting that Kentucky doubled its state aid to public schools following
the Rose decision, significantly increasing total funding to poor school districts and essentially eliminating the link between local
property wealth and per-pupil expenditures).