Hearings on district map for elected representative school board for Chicago

In November 2024, Chicago’s first (ever) election for the Board of Education will be held. Ten of twenty-one seats will be elected; the remaining eleven appointed by the Mayor. The board will be fully elected starting in November 2026.

As you know, a large coalition, including IL-FPS, worked for over a decade to bring an elected representative school board to the city of Chicago. In the spring of 2021, the General Assembly finally passed a bill granting Chicagoans an elected school board, albeit with a four-year delayed start, followed by two years of a hybrid board still under mayoral control.

The General Assembly initially set a deadline of February 2022 to draw the district map, but only began the work of laying out this map very recently to meet a revised deadline of July 1, 2023 . As part of the process, the Illinois Senate has established a special committee about the elected board and is holding a series of subject-matter hearings on districting.

The first in-person hearings were already held last week. There’s two more in-person hearings, today (Wed. 4/12) at 4pm on the Northwest Side and tomorrow (Thurs. 4/13) at 4pm in Pilsen. Next week is a final virtual hearing on Mon. April 17th.

Wed. April 12, 4-6pm, Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Avenue, Chicago, IL 60630

Thurs. April 13, 4-6 pm, National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th Street, Chicago, IL 60608

Mon. April 17, 6-8pm, Virtual Hearing

You can attend to observe, speak or provide written testimony. If you want to provide testimony, email [email protected] and also submit a witness slip here. (Click the relevant box if you will give oral or written testimony.) You can also submit a map or community of interest.

We urge you to attend if possible and make sure the mapmakers know Chicagoans, particularly, public school families, want a board that’s as representative as possible of who the district serves.

Why 21 members?

The size of the elected board will be large compared to other school boards in Illinois (21 vs the usual seven members); this is something the elected representative school board coalition fought for.

Splitting the city into twenty districts (with one elected-at-large board president) makes it possible, at least in theory, to create a board with districts that give sufficient representation to the Black and Brown communities that make up the majority of the CPS student body and also comply with federal and state voting rights laws. More districts also means less expensive elections, which is important because there is still nothing on the books to limit the influence of big money, pro-privatization groups in these races.

Note that 90% of Illinois school districts, almost all of which have boards with seven members, enroll fewer students than just the single largest individual school in CPS, Lane Tech! CPS is about 10 times as large as the next largest district. Also, it’s worth remembering about half of Chicagoans’ property taxes go to CPS; the other half are (mostly) allocated by a 50-member City Council and Mayor. Cook County, with an operating budget similar in size to CPS, is run by a 17-member board plus a president.

Not surprisingly, groups that have long opposed any democratic governance for CPS—Stand for Children, Advance Illinois, Illinois Network for Charter Schools, Chicago Public Education Fund and Kids First Chicago (formerly known as New Schools for Chicago and before that the Renaissance Schools Fund)—are still lobbying for a much smaller board, which would mean their billionaire funders (e.g. see this list of Kids First donors) could more easily control who runs and who is elected.

Please attend one of these hearings if possible! Questions? [email protected]