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SECTION 1. The General Assembly shall provide a thorough and efficient system of free schools, whereby all children of this State may receive a good common school education.
1. The free schools of the State are public institutions, and in their management and control, the law contemplates that they should be so managed and controlled, that all children within the district, between the ages of 6 and 21 years, regardless of age or color, shall have equal and the same right to participate in the benefits to be derived therefrom. Chase v. Stephenson, 71-383.
2. This provision of the Constitution was doubtless intended as a limitation upon the power of the Legislature to provide for the maintenance of free schools by local taxation of a different character from that named in the section. In other words, under this section of the Constitution the Legislature has the power to enact laws under which a thorough and efficient system of free schools may be established and maintained by local taxation, in which all the children of the State may receive a good common school education. Richards v. Raymond, 92-612.
3. No definition of a common school is given or specified in the Constitution, nor does that instrument declare what course of studies shall constitute a common school education. The phrase a common school education is one not easily defined. One might say that a student instructed in reading, writing, geography, grammar and arithmetic had received a common school education, while another who had more enlarged notions on the subject might insist that history, natural philosophy and algebra should be included. It would be almost impossible to find two persons who would in all respects agree in regard to what constituted a common school education. Ibid.
4. At the time of the adoption of the Constitution there was a wide difference of opinion in different parts of the State as to what constitutes a common school education. A constitution which would have impaired, in any degree, the free high school system in existence would not have received the approval of the voters of the State. While the Constitution has not defined what a good common school education is, and has failed to prescribe a limit, it is no part of the duty of the courts to declare by judicial construction, what particular branches of study shall constitute a common school education. This is a proper question for the determination of the Legislature. Ibid.
5. This section of the Constitution is mandatory, and, at the same time, it is a limitation upon the power of the General Assembly. So far as it makes it the duty of the Legislature to establish a thorough and efficient system of free schools, it is mandatory. But the latter clause of the section is a limitation upon the power of the Legislature as to the character of education to be afforded by the system of free schools to be established and maintained. Powell v. Board of Education, 97-375.
6. In pursuance of this provision of the Constitution, which makes no distinction in regard to the race or color of the children of the State who are entitled to share in the benefits to be derived from our public schools, the Legislature has passed an act to establish and maintain a system of free schools. This act provides that each district shall establish and keep in operation, for at least six months in the year, and longer if practicable, a sufficient number of free schools for the proper accommodation of all children in the district, and shall secure to all such children the right and opportunity to an equal education. This shows the clear intent of the Legislature to make all children, regardless of race or color, between the ages of 6 and 21 years, beneficiaries, and entitled to the same rights and privileges in our free schools. People v. Board of Education, 101-308.
7. Section 1, article 8 of the Constitution makes it the duty of the General Assembly to provide a system of free schools, but leaves to the Legislature the discretion as to the mode in which the system shall be organized, and the officers by whom it shall be controlled and directed, and its affairs administered. The only school officers expressly provided for by the Constitution are a county superintendent of schools in each county, and a superintendent of public instruction. Plummer v. Yost, 144-68.
8. The General Assembly, in view of this declared policy of the Constitution, deemed it expedient, in the distribution of the powers of the State government, to provide for the creation of boards of education, and to delegate to such boards the necessary power and charge them with the duty to carry the constitutional mandate into execution. Kinnare v. City of Chicago, 171-332.
9. The foregoing section is not self-executing, and the Legislature must, either by general or specific grant, give the power to a board of education to purchase with public school funds, text books for the use of all scholars, before it can be held that a board of education has such power. Harris v. Kill, 108A-305.
10. Pursuant to this provision of the Constitution, the State Legislature enacted the school law of 1889. By this act school districts were divided according to population into three classes —those having a population of fewer than 1,000 inhabitants, those having a population of not fewer than 1,000 and not more than 100,000 inhabitants, and those having a population exceeding 100,000 inhabitants. Ibid.
11. The general school law of 1889 provides for the organization of school districts and the maintenance therein of free schools in which the children of the State may receive a good common school education. Under that act any school district can maintain different departments and grade and classify the scholars so as to promote the efficiency of the school. It may maintain and establish grades and divisions for instruction of advanced scholars in the same higher branches that are taught in high schools. Russell v. High School Board of Education, 212-327.
12. Section 1, article 8 of the Constitution declares, that the General Assembly shall provide a thorough and efficient system of free schools, whereby all children of this State may receive a good school education. That section is both a mandate to the Legislature and a limitation upon its power to establish schools except for the purpose of a good common school education. But a high school for the education of the more advanced pupils is a school of the character required by the Constitution. Any school district may establish and maintain a high school department. Ibid.
13. Section 1, article 8 of the Constitution directs that the General Assembly shall provide a thorough and efficient system of free schools, whereby all children in this State may receive a good common school education. There is no limitation in that or any other article as to the agencies the State shall adopt in providing this system. There is, it is true, a limitation as to the amount of indebtedness a school district may contract, but there is no attempt to limit the Legislature in providing for the formation of school districts, nor in prescribing who shall or who shall not be empowered with the levy, collection and custody of school taxes. The General Assembly may, therefore, act, in these respects, at its discretion, and prescribe such mode for the formation of school districts, and designate such persons for the levying, collecting and having the custody of school taxes, as it, alone, shall consider most conducive to the public interests. Speight v. The People, 87–595.
§ 2. All lands, moneys, or other property, donated, granted or received for school, college, seminary or university purposes, and the proceeds thereof, shall be faithfully applied to the objects for which such gifts or grants were made.
1. By the compact between the United States and the State of Illinois, upon the admission of the latter into the Union, it is agreed, among other things, that section sixteen in erery township shall be granted to the State for the use of the inhabitants of such township, for the use of schools; and that threefifths of the net proceeds of the sales of public lands lying within the same, shall be appropriated by the Legislature of the State, for the encouragement of learning, of which one-sixth shall be exclusively bestowed on a college or university. Bush v. Shipman, 4-186.
2. The grant of the sixteenth section is made directly to the State, for the use of the inhabitants of the township, for the use of schools. It is indeed a sacred trust, and the State, as trustee, should, by proper legislation, see that it is faithfully executed.
The Legislature may, from time to time, direct in what manner the school funds shall be loaned, upon what security, at what rate of interest, in what currency they shall be received, and by whom they shall be applied. Ibid.
3. The insertion of the words, in the grant from the United States to the State of Illinois, that the lands granted were to be applied to the use of schools, does not make the general government the donor for that purpose, or give that government any right whatever to control the lands thus vested in the State. The State purchased the lands for a valuable consideration, for a certain purpose, and it now rests with the State to determine in what manner the lands can be best applied to the objects and purposes for which they were bought. Good faith will always require the State to apply the said lands to the purposes of education. Bradley v. Case, 4-585.
4. By an act of Congress, approved March 30, 1822, the State of Illinois was authorized to survey and mark through the public lands of the United States, the route of the canal connecting the Illinois river with the southern bend of Lake Michigan, and ninety feet on either side of said canal was forever reserved from any sale to be made by the United States, and vested in the State of Illinois for a canal. But the application of this act does not relate to the sixteenth sections. These sections were not public lands at the time of the passage of this act, but had been granted to the State of Illinois for the use of schools pursuant to the congressional ordinance of April 18, 1818, and the ordinance adopted by the constitutional convention August 26, 1818, accepting the propositions of Congress. Canal írustees v. Haven, 10-548.
5. It is provided, by the ordinance of the 18th of April, 1818, that section sixteen in every township shall be granted to the State, for the use of the inhabitants of such township, for the use of schools. But where a franchise to keep a ferry on the sixteenth section has been granted to the trustees of schools, it is competent for the Legislature to revoke it. A franchise is not an incident to the ownership of land. Franchises are creatures of the sovereign power, which it may grant or refuse at pleasure. A grant of this character to a public corporation may, at any time, be resumed by the State. Trustees of Schools v. Tatman, 13–27.
6. Such donations are made to the State for a specific use. The title to such funds is vested in the State as completely as if the use was not declared in the law making the grants and the administration of such funds is left to the State. The State has complete control over them, to administer them as it pleases, in promotion of the objects of the grant. No sovereign state would accept a grant on any other terms. Neither Congress nor any court has ever undertaken to interfere with a state government in the administration of the school funds, arising from congressional grants. The public faith of the State has ever been, and will ever be, a sure guarantee that these funds will be administered in good faith, and in the most beneficial manner. Greenleaf v. Township Trustees, 22–236.
7. This provision includes the lands and money embraced in the common school fund, also the college, seminary and university lands and funds in the