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Monday, May 14, 2012

Court Denies Request to Transfer Between School Districts

The general law in Illinois does not favor the transfer of land between school districts.  The courts are most interested in the welfare of individual students and clear evidence that a transfer will benefit the students.  The party seeking annexation and detachment has the burden to prove that “the overall benefit to the annexing district and the detachment area clearly outweighs the resulting detriment to the losing district and the surrounding community as a whole.”  The courts look at these cases with great care and finds no difficulty in overturning decisions which simply do not seem to be fair.  The tests include “educational welfare,” “community of interests,” and the “whole child.”  The courts will also look into financial loss to the detaching district. 

In a recent Illinois appellate court decision, the parents who sought the change had a very difficult challenge.  Board of Education of Marquardt S.D. #15 v. Regional Board of School Trustees.  In this case, parents in two subdivisions that contained a dividing line between two school districts sought to place the whole subdivision within the elementary and high school district that the parents favored.  One part of the uphill battle faced by the parents was that there were no students from the area sought to be detached attending public schools - they all attended private schools.  The evidence showed that the average value of the homes in the territory sought to be detached ranged from $700,000 to almost $900,000.  In contrast, the average value of homes within their current district was closer to $200,000.  Their existing school districts were far more racially diverse than the districts to which they wanted to be annexed. 

The transfers were initially approved by the Regional Board of School Trustees.  That transfer was affirmed by the trial court.  The Appellate Court reversed, however, concluding that the evidence favored a sense of community being continued through leaving the boundaries as they were.  Even if the territory were detached from the two school districts, it would remain within the boundaries of the park and library districts.  The petitioners did not present any evidence of children in the territory participating in any particular social, religious or commercial activities that favored a change of boundaries.  The court had little difficulty in stating:  “Thus, detaching a territory would have the effect of allowing affluent Caucasian homeowners to change school boundaries so that they children would attend less integrated school districts.”  The court went on to say:  “more than the petitioners’ personal preference are required for a change in School District boundaries.” 

In general, the court cases that deal with school detachments, unlike cases such as disconnection of territory from a municipality, show that where school bounties are involved, the hopes, expectations and social goals of either real estate developers or parents and residents don’t provide the impetus for change.  The courts and the legislature greatly favor the stability of once established school boundaries.

Post Authored by Stewart Diamond, Ancel Glink.


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