Supreme Court Summaries
Opinions filed November 29, 2012
Carr v. Koch, 2012 IL 113414
Appellate citation: 2011 IL App (4th) 110117.
JUSTICE THOMAS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Garman, Karmeier, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.
Citizens unhappy with the way in which public school education is funded in Illinois brought this declaratory judgment action against the State Superintendent of Education, the Illinois State Board of Education, and the Governor. The 2010 complaint alleged that a funding system is in place which requires taxpayers in school districts with low property values (such as theirs) to pay property taxes to fund local public schools at a higher rate than similarly situated taxpayers in school districts with higher property values. The complaint alleged that this amounts to a violation of the equal protection clause of the Illinois Constitution of 1970. The circuit court of Sangamon County dismissed the action, and the appellate court affirmed.
In this decision, the Illinois Supreme Court did not reach the constitutional challenge raised. It held that the complaint was properly dismissed for lack of standing.
Noting that the funding statute being challenged is a funding statute rather than a taxing statute, the supreme court agreed with the appellate court that the plaintiffs have failed to establish that the inequalities alleged are a direct result of the enforcement of the education funding statute or are fairly traceable to defendants’ actions. It is still entirely within the discretion of the school districts to determine the actual rate of local property taxes, and the educational funding statute does not require or compel school districts to tax at a certain rate. Although a school district might decide that more local property tax revenues are required in order to provide its students with a sufficient education, that decision is left to the school district and is not compelled or required by the educational funding statute. Plaintiffs’ claims that the imposition of the higher taxes is a direct result of the enforcement of the challenged statute and is fairly traceable to defendants is too attenuated to confer standing in this case.
The results below were affirmed.