West Siders asked to weigh in on CPS’ new elected school board

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Monday, a group of African Americans will present its proposal for how they think Chicagoans should elect candidates to the Chicago Board of Education starting next year.

The Illinois Senate Special Committee on the Chicago Elected Representative School Board will hold the last of five hearings to get input from the public; the virtual meeting starts at 6 p.m. April 17.

The body is tasked with drawing the districts where school board members will be elected. Under a state law approved in 2021, the seven-member appointed board will be replaced, in phases, by 21 elected members by 2027.

In November 2024, the first 10 board members will be elected and the other 11, including the board’s president, will be appointed by newly elected Mayor Brandon Johnson. Then in November 2026, the 11 appointed seats will be up for election, and by January 2027, a fully elected board will be in place.

At an earlier hearing, Kee Taylor, a band teacher at Michele Clark High School, pushed for the maps to be drawn in a way that gives a voice to Austin, North Lawndale and Garfield Park residents, saying schools in these neighborhoods don’t have the resources necessary to be academically successful.

“For me, it’s important that as we draw these boundaries that we are prioritizing and centering communities that we neglected,” Taylor said, according to a story by Chalkbeat Chicago. For example, Taylor said Michele Clark does not have a race track, so students on the track team have to practice in the hallway.

Valerie Leonard, founder of Illinois African Americans for Equitable Redistricting, said there needs to be a stronger relationship between local school councils and the board of education to amplify the needs of schools in different communities.

“We need you to strengthen the relationship between the local school councils and the Board of Education to further amplify the voices of schools in their communities,” Leonard said, according to Chalkbeat Chicago. “This can be achieved by seeking local school council representation or by developing an advisory structure where local school councils can provide more robust feedback.”

Leonard’s group – Illinois African Americans for Equitable Redistricting (IAAFER) – has developed a mapping and board governance proposal she says will optimize opportunities for all Chicago voters. (See the proposed map below.)

The group – made up of grassroots organizations, individuals, educators, members of the clergy, and business and civic leaders – also urges the creation of a standing African American Affairs Committee of the Chicago Board of Education “to focus on entrenched problems that keep Black children from meeting their academic potential.”

In addition to testifying at Monday’s virtual hearing, Chicagoans can also submit feedback  through an online portal.

The map that is proposed by the group Illinois African Americans for Equitable Redistricting.

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