CAT Tracks for January 27, 2012

Is relying on local property taxes for school funding constitutional?

That is the question that the Illinois Supreme Court wants to hear arguments about...

...maybe a year from now.

The lawsuit was originally filed in March 2010.

Stay tuned...

From the website...

Link to Original Story

Chicago Daily Law Bulletin
High court accepts case challenging education funding

January 25, 2012

By Josh Weinhold
Law Bulletin staff writer

SPRINGFIELD The Illinois Supreme Court today agreed to hear arguments in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state's educational funding system.

The two plaintiffs in the suit contend state standards caused them to pay higher property tax rates due to living in poorer school districts, while owners of similarly valued homes in wealthier districts pay a lower rate.

Such a system violates the equal protection clause of the Illinois Constitution, the plaintiffs argue.

The high court allowed the petition for leave to appeal in the case Paul Carr et al., v. Dr. Christopher Koch, etc., et al., No. 113414 along with 14 others. The court accepted petitions in eight civil cases and seven criminal cases, while also denying 249 appeal petitions.

Alexander Polikoff, an attorney for Business and Professional People for the Public Interest (BPI), and Sidley, Austin LLP attorneys Scott R. Lassar, Tacy F. Flint and Jason M. Adlerwere listed on the appeal petition.

The Sidley, Austin lawyers developed the suit with BPI on a pro bono basis and submitted the plaintiffs' petition to the high court. BPI is a Chicago-based public interest law and policy center.

Polikoff said the suit takes on the state's educational funding system in a unique way.

While previous court challenges focused on inequities the tax system caused students in different districts, he said, this case deals with the disparity created among property taxpayers.

"Here you have the state of Illinois choosing a school funding method that inevitably results in two hypothetical taxpayers being treated differently," Polikoff said.

The Sidley, Austin lawyers did not respond to requests for comment.

The suit names as defendants Christopher Koch, state superintendent of education, the Illinois State Board of Education and Gov. Patrick J. Quinn.

The board of education would not comment on the high court taking the case, a spokesman said. The attorney general's office, which represented the state on appeal, did not respond to a request for comment.

Both a circuit court and the 4th District Appellate Court dismissed the suit, claiming the plaintiffs did not allege an injury traceable to the state.

The plaintiffs' petition argues that the tax system, which requires school districts to attain a certain level of per-pupil funding, caused plaintiff Paul Carr's Chicago Heights property to be taxed at a rate 2.5 times higher than a property with the same assessed value in Winnetka, a north Chicago suburb.

The other plaintiff is Ron Newell of Cairo.

Polikoff said he hopes to see the court send the current educational funding system back to the Illinois General Assembly for revisions. Such action would remedy unequal treatment of taxpayers, he said, while also benefiting school districts.

"An indirect result of a win for our side would be an improvement in the school funding system," he said.