More hearings on Chicago school board maps

The Illinois General Assembly’s spring session is scheduled to end May 19th, and there is a deadline of July 1, 2023 to have a map dividing the city into districts to elect members to the Chicago Board of Education starting next year.

The first elections of ten members of a 21-member in total board are to be held in November 2024; the remaining members would initially be appointed, and then those seats too would be elected in November 2026. From what we understand, the two chambers are each drawing up maps and then resolving their differences and disagreements to create a single map that will need to pass both bodies.

The Senate created a special committee and held five hearings earlier this month. The hearings in the House will be subject-matter hearings of the House Executive Committee.

If you plan to testify or submit written testimony, fill out a witness slip and email: [email protected]. (More instructions here.)

Monday, April 24th at 1pm, virtual (Witness slip)

Saturday, April 29th at 12pm, Kenwood Academy (Witness slip)

Monday May 1st at 6pm, Lane Tech (Witness slip)

Friday May 5th at 1pm, virtual (Witness slip)

Saturday May 6 at 10am, Curie High School (Witness slip)

IL-FPS live tweeted two of the Senate hearings here and here, and Cassie Creswell, IL-FPS director, spoke on behalf of the org at the virtual hearing. Read her testimony here. (You can watch a recording of the fifth hearing here.)

We wrote previously about why the law establishing the board will create a board with 20 members elected from sub-districts of the city and 1 at-large-elected president. Dividing the city into 20 districts means one elected member representing around 130,000 constituents. Here’s some relevant comparisons:

  • Other school boards in Illinois almost all have seven members. But 90% of those boards’ districts are very small with fewer than 4500 students. That’s less than just the largest single CPS high school.    
  • Elgin U-46 is the second largest district in the state. There are 160,000 registered voters in the district and 35,000 students, about 1/10th the size of Chicago. It has a 7-member elected board.
  • About half of our property taxes in Chicago are controlled by the Chicago Board of Education. We have 50 aldermen and a mayor to levy and allocate the portion that goes to the city.
  • Cook County Board has 17 members and a president with an operating budget roughly similar to that of CPS. 

Organizations funded by wealthy donors, like Kids First, the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, Stand for Children and Advance Illinois, that did not support a democratically-elected school board, a governance structure that all other Illinois school districts have, continue to push for a smaller board that would be easier for them to control

It’s important for ordinary Chicagoans, especially Chicago Public School families, to advocate for a map that will allow for a elected representative school board. A board with twenty-one seats makes that more likely.

These hearings are rather last minute and not particularly conveniently scheduled, but please attend a hearing or submit testimony if you can!

Credit: Ellen Gradman[Image credit: Ellen Gradman]