Education Reform

Chicago Regains Democratic Control of Its Public Schools

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Mayoral control of the schools was always a dumb idea. The mayor of a big city has many more important priorities than running the schools. He or she cannot give the schools full-time attention. The mayor has to worry about the economy, crime, transportation, taxes, sanitation, and a thousand other things. Education is always going to be on the back burner. Mayoral control is also guaranteed to politicize education. The mayor will brag about his or her accomplishments. Chicago has had mayoral control since the 1995, and all they got for it was Arne Duncan’s Renaissance 2010 plan, which imposed a plethora of bad ideas about closing “failing” schools and replacing them with charter schools instead of helping them. New York City got mayoral control in 2002, at the insistence of Michael Bloomberg when he was elected the previous fall; in his billionaire fashion, he thought he knew how to turn the schools around. The District of Columbia schools were turned over to the mayor, who hired Michelle Rhee as chancellor, although she had been neither a principal nor a superintendent. Boston still has mayoral control.

The Illinois legislature just voted to end mayoral control in Chicago and let the citizens have an elected school board like every other district in the state.

The Chicago Teachers Union released this statement:

CHICAGO, June 16, 2021 — The Chicago Teachers Union issued the following statement regarding today’s historic passage of HB2908, which gives Chicago public school students and families an elected representative school board:

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. 

Our union is grateful for the work of state representatives Kam Buckner and bill sponsor Delia Ramirez, Sen. Rob Martwick, and Speaker Chris Welch and Senate President Don Harmon, who were instrumental in bringing this landmark change to Chicago Public Schools. We look forward to Governor J.B. Pritzker’s signature on this bill, and thank everyone who has fought to grant Chicagoans the right that residents in every other school district in the state possess: the right to an elected representative school board.

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