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Task force for an elected school board sought

by Christa Smith on March 5, 2014

Today Illinois lawmakers are expected to consider legislation that would create a task force to evaluate whether CPS should have an elected school board like every other district in the state.

State Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago), the chief sponsor on the bill, believes a task force is necessary to bring everyone to the table to discuss the possibility of making such a major change.

“We don’t just want to jump into anything,” said Ford, the bill’s sponsor. “We should have a task force assess it to see if it’s working or not.”

The Chicago Board of Education is the only appointed school board out of Illinois’ 868 school districts.

CPS has had an appointed board since 1995. That year, state lawmakers paased the Chicago School Reform Amendatory Act, giving then-Mayor Daley full control over selecting the school board, and it has remained this way ever since, with Mayor Rahm Emanuel now appointing the seven-member board.

State Rep. Monique D. Davis (D-Chicago), one of the five sponsors of HB1152, said the people of Chicago need a school board that represents them.

“The board has no allegiance to the people, it’s only accountable to the mayor,” Davis said.

She said Chicagoans want the individuals overseeing the nation’s third-largest school district to understand what’s going on in their communities and schools.

Last week in Springfield, CPS legislative liaison Laura Farr said CPS does not necessarily oppose the task force, but there are certain aspects of the bill it would like reworded. She said at a Feb. 26 legislative hearing that CPS is willing to speak with Rep. Ford to discuss these changes, but she declined to talk with AustinTalks.

“I think CPS is going to oppose the task force no matter what,” Ford said. “But it’s important for them to come to the table and explain their opposition. This task force will bring all the advocates, for and against an elected board, to the table.”

Brandon Johnson, deputy political director of the Chicago Teachers Union, said Ford has been interested in creating a task force for a while.

“It is important we have these conversations in order to bring democracy to Chicago,” Johnson said. “Citizens of Chicago want to have a stake in their children’s education.”

Johnson said it’s unfair Chicago voters don’t get to elect the school board like the rest of the state’s voters.

Dozens of people rallied in Springfield Feb. 27  in support of Ford’s bill. At least 30 supporters drove down from Chicago.

“The rally was entirely put together by community members and organizations,” Johnson said. “This shows dedicated they are to this change.”

Ford said he expects a vote to be taken on the bill March 5 when it’s heard by the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee.

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1 AustinTalks March 6, 2014 at 6:32 am

Here’s what Phillip Cantor had to say about this story:

Thanks for covering education in Chicago and the fight for an elected school board.

The article repeated a commonly misunderstood fact of public education in Chicago. It said that Chicago went from an elected to an appointed board in 1995. While the law did change in 1995 and some more democratic procedures were stripped from the citizens of Chicago, the board before 1995 was not an elected board either. The mayor appointed some members directly and the mayor had veto power over board candidates nominated by LSC members. Most people would not consider that an elected board.

Here is some info about the history of school boards in Chicago.
https://sites.google.com/site/codechicago/research-and-information-about-elected-representative-school-board/brief-history-of-the-chicago-school-board

Thanks again for your continuing coverage of this important issue.

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