CPS will hold its first Local School Council elections since closing 50 schools last year – including four in Austin.
Elections will be held at elementary schools April 7 and at high schools April 8. In all, there are 15 schools in Austin holding elections, according to information posted on CPS’ web site. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Local resident will be electing members to their Local School Council, which is comprised of six parents, two community members, two teachers, one non-teacher staff, the school’s principal and – at each high school – a student representative.
There wasn’t a full slate of candidates for 4 of Austin’s 15 LSCs, as of March 23. Citywide, there have been problems finding enough candidates, according to a recent Catalyst article.
WBEZ has a link in a recent story to all the candidates who are running citywide.
Some West Side activists said they’re not surprised there aren’t enough candidates.
Austin resident Dwayne Truss, who’s served on three LSCs, said parents are discouraged and feel they have no say in their children’s education.
“The problem is for many years, CPS has not tried to engage parents,” said Truss, a board member of Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education, which has been publicizing this week’s elections. “They’re not trying to empower parents to change their kids’ schools.”
He said at a recent town hall meeting held in Austin and sponsored by Raise Your Hand, the consensus among those attending was that parents don’t believe officials are hearing their voices.
That may explain why many LSCs don’t have a full slate of candidates – and why he and other advocates predict low turnout in Monday and Tuesday’s elections.
“Why would you vote (for) local school councils when you don’t have a say in what happens to your school?” Truss asked.
Elce Redmond, an organizer with South Austin Community Coalition Council, said with schools being closed and others being designated “turnarounds,” parents feel disenfranchised.
“The LSCs were created to give parents far more power in terms of determining the destiny of their children,” Redmond said. But “it’s a dictatorship of the few over the many.”
The Illinois General Assembly created LSCs in 1995 as part of a larger “reform” law that gave the Chicago mayor full control over appointing the Chicago Board of Education.
There will be at least one less LSC election next time, with the recent announcement that CPS is designating McNair Elementary School a turnaround starting in the 2014-2015 academic year.
Turnaround schools like McNair – which will be taken over by Academy for Urban School Leadership – aren’t required to have an LSC.
Redmond said without an LSC, there will be even less parental involvement.
“All of this has been designed to reduce the amount of power parents have in the schools,” Redmond said. “It’s been to ensure corporations and elected officials are the ones determining the destiny of children rather than the parents.”
CPS did not return calls for comment.
Some of the candidates running for LSCs are connected to charter schools, the Chicago Sun-Times reported this week.
Truss said the achievement gap between whites and minorities continues to grow and schools are not improving.
“Black educators have been replaced by white inexperienced teachers – teachers who aren’t familiar with the culture of our neighborhoods,” Truss said.
That’s why he thinks Chicagoans have to fight for the right to elect their school board.
CPS is the only appointed school board out of the state’s 868 school districts, all of which are elected.
The Chicago Teachers Union and other advocacy organizations such as Raise Your Hand Illinois have been lobbying in Springfield to change the law.
Last week, the Illinois House approved a proposal by state Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago) that would create a task force to study whether the school board should be elected. The proposal is pending in the Illinois Senate.
“I think CPS is going to oppose the task force no matter what,” Ford said in February when the bill was introduced. “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.”
State Rep. Monique D. Davis (D-Chicago), a backer of HB1152, told AustinTalks in February that 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.
Brandon Johnson, CTU deputy political director, agrees Chicago voters should have a say in their school system.
“Citizens of Chicago want to have a stake in their children’s education,” said Johnson, an Austin resident.
LSC election results will be posted on the CPS website.