A grassroots coalition of Chicagoans says it will file more than 50,000 petition signatures on Monday with the city’s elections board for a non-binding elected school board ballot referendum.
The Grassroots Education Movement, Grassroots Illinois Action and United Working Families spearheaded the petition campaign, which seeks to place an advisory question on the February 24 ballot in each of the city’s 50 wards asking, “Should the city of Chicago have an elected school board?”
The mayor currently appoints Chicago school board members.
“The work of so many community leaders talking to their neighbors all over the city shows clearly that Chicago is ready and excited for change,” Grassroots Illinois Action’s Executive Director Amisha Patel said in a statement. “The status quo is not working for our children. Instead of constantly trying to shut down democracy, it is time for the mayor and Chicago Public Schools to listen to the people. We will not be silenced any longer.”
Proponents of an elected school board argue that the question has been kept off the citywide ballot because it would garner strong support, showing that Chicagoans largely disapprove of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s education policies.
The Chicago Board of Education is the only non-elected school board in Illinois, and the state legislature must ultimately change the rules. Legislation that would provide for the election of Chicago school board members, instead of the current appointment system, failed to gain traction among state lawmakers last legislative session.
Although the proposed ward-level ballot questions would be non-binding, referendum organizers say the results could persuade the Illinois General Assembly to go against Emanuel and change the state law to allow for an elected Chicago school board.