House OKs elected school board for Chicago
7:20 P.M. UPDATE: In an unexpected twist, the bill's chief sponsor, Rep. Delia Ramirez, D-Chicago, filed a motion to reconsider the vote, which will keep it from immediately going to Pritzker, where he's expected to sign it into law. Ramirez didn't explain why, but I'd be stunned if any real delay is coming. The Chicago Teachers Union doesn't seem concerned about the move, which may be a pre-emptive strike to prevent someone else from messing with the bill. Said the union in a statement: "Today’s vote represents the will of the people, and after more than a quarter of a century, moves our district forward in providing democracy and voice to students and their families. This is the culmination of a generation of work by parents, rank-and-file educators and activists, who recognized the shortcomings of mayoral control of our schools and demanded better for our children. This is their legacy. This is Karen’s legacy." That's a reference to late CTU President Karen Lewis. The Illinois House has given final approval of a bill creating a fully elected Chicago Board of Education within six years, handing political progressives and the Chicago Teachers Union a sweet victory and Mayor Lori Lightfoot a bitter defeat. The action came on a 70-41, largely party-line vote, in which the House concurred with changes made by the Senate in a bill that already had been approved by the chamber earlier this year. The measure now goes to Gov J.B. Pritzker, who repeatedly has indicated he is inclined to sign the measure into law. Under the plan, the mayor no longer would name the members of what's currently a seven-member board. Instead, by the 2026 general election, voters would elect members from each of 20 districts the city would be divided into as well as the board chairman, who would be elected citywide. Teachers and other Chicago Public Schools employees could not serve on the board, but the bill otherwise imposes no limits on the ability of the CTU to finance and campaign for board candidates. An interim board of 11 appointed and 10 elected board members would take office in January 2025. But any decisions on closing individual schools would be deferred until the fully elected board assumed power in January 2027. “This is a down payment on democracy,” declared Rep. Kam Buckner, D-Chicago, chairman of the House Black Caucus. “This is not a perfect piece of legislation. . . .But we cannot continue to nothing because we can’t do everything." Lightfoot, with the support of much of the city’s business community, had offered numerous objections to the plan, among them that a 21-member board would be cumbersome and too large, that special interests could end up dominating expensive races for board seats and that undocumented immigrants whose children are in Chicago Public Schools would be denied the right to vote on board members. "Too many issues remain to be resolved, such as whether board members will be paid or whether advocates at some point will seek public financing of board races," said GOP Rep. Ryan Spain of Peoria during floor debate. “This bill is not ready to go yet.” Sponsors indicated they may run a follow-up trailer bill to deal with some of that—for instance, possibly putting limits on campaign contributions. Lightfoot made a last-minute effort yesterday to sidetrack the bill , meeting with members of the House Black Caucus. But members afterward said they were not swayed and intended to vote for the bill.