The debate over whether Chicago should switch to an elected, rather than the current mayor-appointed, school board is back in the spotlight.
State lawmakers have introduced new legislation that would require the election of Chicago Board of Education members. Legislators from Chicago and elected school board supporters announced the bill's introduction on Monday.
State Rep. Rob Martwick (D-Chicago) filed the bill, HB 4268, which has more than 30 co-sponsors.
"The city of Chicago has repeatedly blamed the legislature for failing to take action to improve Chicago Public Schools. Today, we heed that call to action by filing legislation to provide for an elected school board," Martwick said in a news release. "No longer will the blame for a failed system of education rest in the hands of a board appointed by the mayor. Instead, citizens of Chicago will have the ability to elect board members to implement the education and financial policies needed to finally turn around CPS."
Under the legislation, 13 school board seats would filled by election from residents in four areas of Chicago. The Southeast Side, Southwest Side, and the West/Central region would each have three seats and the North Region would have four seats. "The structure would mirror all other Illinois school board[s] in how candidates are qualified and elected, and in the new board's duties," according to the press announcement. School board members would first be elected in March 2016, if the legislation is approved.
"In February's election, the Chicago voters overwhelmingly backed a non-binding referendum to call for an elected Chicago school board for CPS. Many of my constituents continue to express a need for better local representation in the leadership of CPS school board. It is time to debate the feasibility of having an elected school board in Chicago," said Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago), one of the bill's co-sponsors.
Ford was referring to the non-binding voter question about an elected school board for Chicago that appeared on the ballot in 37 of the city's 50 wards.
Rep. Art Turner (D-Chicago) is another co-sponsor of the legislation.
"For too long, Chicago Public Schools have headed in the wrong direction and our students, families and communities are suffering because of it," the lawmaker said. "I believe we need to put the direction of our public schools back in the hands of the people and the best way to do that is with an elected board working for the people. It's time to provide hope for our schools in Chicago and it starts today with this initiative."
Groups like the Grassroots Education Movement support the bill.
"The Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) has been involved in the fight for an elected representative school board for many years," said Erica Rangel, of GEM and Enlace Chicago. "In the midst of the current battle for equity and democracy in our city and state, we want to remind our elected officials that an overwhelming majority of Chicago voters supported an elected representative school board last November."