Illinois Court of Appeals Clarifies When a Regional Board of School Trustees May Consider School Report Cards in Detachment-Annexation Matters
Sep 29, 2021
On September 20, 2021, the Fifth District Court of Appeals held that the Regional Board of School Trustees of Madison County, when deciding to grant a petitioner’s request for detachment from one school district and annexation to another, improperly relied on school report cards where the difference in minority and low-income student populations of the two districts was greater than 3%.
In Board of Education of Roxana Community Unit School District No. 1 v. Regional Board of School Trustees of Madison County, 2021 IL App (5th) 200277, the owners of a residential property petitioned the Regional Board to detach their property from the boundaries of the Roxana Community Unit School District No. 1, and annex it into the boundaries of the Edwardsville Community Unit School District No. 7. At the Regional Board’s hearing, Roxana School District objected to the admissibility of the school report cards of the two districts on the grounds that, by statute, the report cards are inadmissible in detachment-annexation hearings when there is more than a 3% difference in the minority, low-income, or English learner student populations of the school districts involved in the proceedings. Nevertheless, the Regional Board compared the school report cards and granted the petition. On administrative review, the Circuit Court of Madison County affirmed. The Roxana School District then appealed, and the Fifth District Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the Board’s decision.
The Court noted that Section 7-6(i)(1) of the School Code provides that “when considering the effect the detachment will have on the direct educational welfare of the pupils, the regional board of school trustees shall consider a comparison of the school report cards for the schools of the detaching and annexing districts only if there is no more than a 3% difference in the minority, low-income, and English learner student populations of the relevant schools of the districts.” 105 ILCS 5/7-6(i)(1) (emphasis added). The Court found that pursuant to the plain language of the statute, a regional board may consider student report cards only if all three categories of student populations have no more than a 3% difference between districts. In this case, there was a 10% difference between the districts in the minority category and a 29% difference between the districts in the low-income category. Therefore, the Court concluded, the Board erred in considering the report cards when two of the categories did not meet the statute’s threshold.
If you have any questions about the Court’s ruling, please contact your Robbins Schwartz attorney.