The Illinois Senate's Special Committee on the Chicago Elected Representative School Board met yesterday and on October 3rd for subject matter hearings on the upcoming elected board. Illinois Families for Public Schools submitted written testimony urging the General Assembly to make the elected board members a compensated position. Read our full testimony below.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
Last Tuesday’s local elections were important ones for public schools around the state. Although initial vote tabulation is not completely finished even now, on the whole, results look good for candidates running in support of strong public schools that serve all kids.Read more
State Senator Rob Martwick passed an amended bill in the Senate yesterday which would create a hybrid board with 10 elected members and 11 appointed members starting in January 2025, with all 21 members fully elected in January 2027. This bill was a negotiation between Senator Martwick and Senator Lightford conducted by Senate President Harmon. The two sides were very far apart, and this was the bill President Harmon allowed to be called. We expect that when the IL House is called back to Springfield in a few weeks, it will pass in the House as well.
Since at least 2006 Chicagoans have been organizing to push for a fully-elected, representative school board instead of a Board of Education appointed by the mayor. Community organizations have had two non-binding referenda on the ballot in Chicago, 2012 and 2015 that showed overwhelming support for an elected board. A large coalition of organizations formed in 2012 under the name Communities Organized for Democracy in Education. That work has continued as the Grassroots Education Movement coalition, GEM, a coalition that IL Families for Public Schools belongs to.
GEM has been working to get the IL School Code amended to establish an elected board for almost a decade. The 102nd General Assembly is at least the fourth General Assembly with a GEM-supported bill to establish a fully elected school board under consideration.
The current mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot said on the campaign trail before she was elected in spring of 2019 that she supported a fully elected school board. The Senate President Don Harmon said before he became Senate President and since that he supports a fully elected board. The Governor has said he will sign a bill that makes it to his desk.
What will it take for Chicago to finally get democratic governance of our school system like the rest of Illinois has? Sign up below to get action alerts on the elected school board bill to help us get this bill passed by the end of May!
Why is this important?
- Voters want it: Nearly 90% of Chicago voters across the city in 2012 and 2015 voted in favor of an elected school board.
- Taxation without representation: CPS levies more than $6B annually without the approval of any democratically elected body. An elected board would better represent the voices of communities served.
- It’s the standard statewide: CPS is the only district statewide without an elected board.
- It’s the standard nationwide: 98% of all school districts have elected school boards.
- It’s the standard in large districts: Most large school districts have elected boards. Of the ten largest school districts nationwide only three, including Chicago, have mayor-controlled boards.
- Voter suppression: Roughly 1 out of 3 Latinx students and 1 out of 2 Black students in Illinois attend public school in a district without an elected school board. Nearly half of Illinois’ Black residents cannot elect their school board, but only 13% of white Illinois residents cannot. The lack of an elected board disproportionately disenfranchises voters of color.
Why the current model of mayoral control established in 1995 isn’t working:
- Lack of transparency: Mayoral control has limited public input and accountability. Policies are enacted without genuine public input, budgets pass with little debate from the board, and capital spending is allowed to be done ad-hoc and without a comprehensive plan.
- Lack of fiscal accountability: Instead of bringing stronger fiscal management, Mayoral control has resulted in failures to make pension payments and extensive borrowing which combined to create a nearly billion dollar structural deficit. A school board is supposed to act as a watchdog to the district.
- Corruption: Mayoral control has not saved the district from scandals like a CEO sent to prison and another resigning under a cloud of corruption, and contracts continue to be approved without scrutiny from the board in the face of public opposition. A system of checks and balances is necessary.
- Lack of evidence: A 2015 report from the University of Illinois at Chicago found that “There is no conclusive evidence that mayor-appointed boards are more effective at governing schools or raising student achievement.”
IL Families for Public Schools wants to hear from you about which legislation you think is a top priority this session! There are a number of important bills already introduced or being filed now, and we want to know what you would most like to see passed—and also what you’d like to help support.Read more
Despite our best efforts and enough votes from IL state senators, Senate President Don Harmon chose not to call the elected school board bill for a vote before the end of the 101st IL General Assembly session.
As a new session begins, we will be back at it again, renewing our fight for much-needed democracy in the school system of Chicago. Chicago families and taxpayers deserve the same rights afforded to the rest of Illinois, and the debate about whether Chicago wants this is long over. Read the statement from the full coalition of education advocacy orgs fighting for an elected board here.Read more
It’s nine school days into a Chicago teacher and staff strike, the second day of fall veto session in Springfield, and a great time to call your state senator and ask why Chicago families are still waiting for an elected, representative school board. (Find your state senator’s phone number here!)Read more
Two RYH Action initiatives pass both chambers!
After many rounds of negotiations, trips to Springfield, hundreds of calls and witness slips filed and a subject matter hearing in the House last summer, our student data privacy bill HB3606 passed in both chambers! Parents will now have a right to know what data is being collected in school, how it’s being used, the ability to inspect, correct and delete it, and there will be mandatory policies about data breaches. (More on what this bill does here.) Thanks to our chief sponsors Rep Rob Martwick and Sen Omar Aquino, and all of you who put in the work to achieve this!Read more