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House sends hybrid elected school board bill to Pritzker


SPRINGFIELD — Legislation spelling out the Chicago school board’s inaugural selection process is in Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s hands after the Illinois House on Thursday approved a measure requiring half the 20-member board to be elected in November and the other half to be appointed by the government. The entire panel won’t be decided by voters for another two years, the mayor said.

By a 75-31 vote, the House adopted the same hybrid model of elected board that it introduced to the House during the fall veto session. That proposal was delayed as the Senate moved forward with its own plan to elect the entire board in a first-round vote.

Senate President Don Harmon of Oak Park agreed to the House plan in January after receiving a letter from Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson urging him to switch to a hybrid model. The model, also supported by the Chicago Teachers Union, Senate on Tuesday.

A few hours before Thursday’s council vote, Pritzker, who signed the measure in 2021 to create Chicago’s elected school board, indicated his support for moving forward, whether through the initial hybrid model or another route.

“Either way, I think the city of Chicago did the right thing,” Pritzker said at an unrelated event in Decatur. “Chicago Public Schools will be better led by people who represent the people, not just those appointed by the mayor of the city of Chicago.”

During House debate Thursday afternoon, State Rep. Ann Williams, a Chicago Democrat and one of the bill’s sponsors, acknowledged that the proposal “is not perfect” but said it was “a workable, fair, equitable, and responsible way to give voice and vote.” to every Chicagoan outside the door.

Lawmakers were facing a self-imposed April 1 deadline to implement the primary election process, with just eight months remaining.

“If this debate had happened a year ago, I would still be pushing for a fully elected board. But now, with the primary election just months away, CPS needs time to prepare and plan,” Williams said. “As someone whose district is entirely in Chicago, it is irresponsible to completely hand over the management of Chicago Public Schools in a matter of months without adequate time to plan.” It feels like.”

“If we do nothing, this bill will likely languish in the courts and the status of the appointed board will continue,” Williams said. “But this doesn’t come close to bringing democracy to Chicago Public Schools.”

House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch said Chicago parents have long been unable to get help from school board members of their choosing, unlike in the suburbs and the rest of the state that elect the boards.

“We’re making history here today,” said Welch, a Hillside Democrat who was once an elected school board member in the near western suburbs. “I can only imagine how painful it must be for Chicago parents to be excluded from their children’s education, to not have a neighbor they can turn to when they have a question or an idea about how their school is being run.”

Under the law, Chicago would be divided into 10 districts, each of which would elect one school board member in the November general election. Johnson will appoint 10 additional members, one from each district. Johnson will also need to appoint a school board president. All 21 members, including the chairman of the board, will serve for two years.

Each of the 10 districts will be divided into two subdistricts, which will hold elections for a fully elected school board in 2026 and the board will meet in January 2027. Starting with the 2032 general election, board seats will be elected three times. For a 10-year period, twice for a four-year period, and then for a two-year period.

The bill also introduces a district map that lawmakers from both chambers had previously agreed upon. This would create seven majority-black districts, six majority-Latino districts, five majority-white districts, and two districts where no group has a majority. The bill also addresses ethical questions involving potential conflicts of interest among board members “with consideration of any contract, employment, or business in the district,” according to the bill.

In a statement urging Pritzker to sign the measure, CTU noted that candidates for the board could begin circulating petitions starting March 26.

According to the bill, potential candidates for the November elections will need to collect at least 1,000 signatures from voters.

The proposal would give Johnson, a former CTU organizer, control over the appointment of half the board members as well as the president, all of whom would continue to serve for the remainder of Johnson’s term.

Opponents of the hybrid model have expressed concerns that Johnson and CTU would have too much influence over the board.

“Having a Chicago Board of Education that is so heavily influenced by CTU creates a clear conflict of interest, as the Board of Education is responsible for setting school policies and negotiating contracts,” said Valerie Leonard, co-founder of the Illinois African Americans group. Fair Redistricting said in a statement on Thursday.

The CTU’s power was also a talking point for Republicans who opposed the bill.

“Instead of looking at what we need to do for people and students… I believe the Chicago Teachers Union has too much say,” said Republican state Rep. Dan Ugaste of Geneva, who voted against the bill.

Ugaste said every board seat should be up for election in November.

“I don’t quite understand what the difference is between having elections in 10 precincts of the city and not all 20 precincts where the city is divided into these various districts,” said Ugaste, whose west suburban district does not include Chicago. “If we can do it for 10 people, we should be able to do it for 20 people.”

State Rep. Jaime Andrade, a Chicago Democrat, voted for the bill but expressed concerns that competitive selective enrollment schools, like the one that recently accepted her daughter, could be affected if the city does not immediately switch to a fully elected board. Chicago’s school board passed a resolution late last year to prioritize neighborhood schools over a five-year period, acknowledging that selective enrollment schools increase inequities in the education system.

“I ask the governor, as my governor, not to sign the bill until he receives a response:
What are their intentions? said Andrade, referring to CPS’ plan
selective enrollment schools. “Because as parents, we deserve to know what their intentions are for the next few years.”


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