Although a citywide advisory referendum asking Chicagoans whether they support switching to an elected school board has been crowded off the ballot for a third time, education activists have a backup plan.
Parents, teachers and community groups are banding together to place a separate, non-binding question about an elected Chicago Board of Education on the February municipal ballot in each of the city's 50 wards. The coalition, which is unhappy with the policies endorsed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's handpicked school board, officially launched their ward-level referendum drive on Monday.
"While the mayor makes his moves by squashing democracy and disrespecting parents, we will make our moves by knocking on doors and by giving the people [the ability] to do the one thing the mayor's afraid of. We are going to give people the chance to vote for an elected school board," Action Now's Executive Director Katelyn Johnson said at the referendum drive's kick off, held in front of Ronald E. McNair Elementary School in the city's Austin neighborhood. (Back in April, the Chicago Board of Education voted to "turnaround" McNair, which involves firing and replacing all school staffers, to improve its academic performance.)
Chicago voters might have an opportunity during the February municipal election to weigh in on a non-binding ballot referendum about paid sick leave for workers in the city.
The council's Rules Committee passed a resolution at its Tuesday meeting calling for an advisory ballot question on whether employers in Chicago should be required to provide their employees with paid leave in the event of an "illness or public health emergency." The full council could consider the proposal at its meeting this Wednesday.
Chicago Ald. Joe Moore (49th), one of the sponsors of the referendum resolution, discussed the measure at a forum on paid sick leave and other pro-worker initiatives held this morning at Roosevelt University.
"It's a great organizing tool for those who support paid sick leave," Moore said of the pending citywide referendum, also sponsored by Alds. Joe Moreno (1st) and Will Burns (4th). Moore said he is confident the measure will pass through the full council tomorrow.
A plan backed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is in the works to let the city's public colleges offer a free ride to Chicago Public Schools high school graduates who have at least a 3.0 grade point average.
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis met with residents of the McKinley Park neighborhood on the Southwest Side Monday night and discussed how she would run City Hall if she were elected to be Chicago’s next mayor.
Lewis touched on a myriad of subjects ranging from budgeting, tax increment financing (TIF) and housing to confronting violence in Chicago at the Monday night forum, held at the New Era Windows Cooperative, 2600 W. 35th St., as part of the ongoing “Conversations with Karen” series.
“What qualifies me to be the mayor, is that I care deeply about this city and I care deeply about the entirety of the city,” she said.