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The public schools of Chicago have had an appointed school board for more than 150 years. In 1995, the law was changed to give the Mayor full control of the schools. He named the members of the school board, and they followed his wishes. Mayoral control of the schools, I have come to believe, is a terrible idea. Theoretically, the Mayor is accountable, but in reality, he or she never is. There are too many issues, and education gets low priority. However, we have seen Mayors using the schools as political props, heralding any progress as the fruits of their labor. We have even seen examples where Mayors distort the data to claim credit.
An elected board is not perfect. No system of governance is. But it gives parents and community activists the opportunity to be heard, even to run for election. With an elected board, there are checks and balances. Democracy is better than authoritarianism. That is why it is so outrageous to see billionaire faux-reformers creating stealth organizations to funnel money to their candidates. True grassroots candidates can ever compete with big money from out of state financiers.
The Chicago Teachers Union issued this statement yesterday.
After more than 150 years of appointed boards of education in Chicago, the road to the city’s first fully elected representative leadership has come to an end.
CHICAGO, July 29, 2021 — The Chicago Teachers Union issued the following statement in response to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature of House Bill 2908, creating an elected representative school board for Chicago Public Schools:
Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature today of HB2908, the historic bill to create an elected representative school board for Chicago, caps a decades-long fight by parents, rank-and-file educators and community activists to provide our school district the same democratic rights afforded to every other district in the state of Illinois.
Students, families and educators will now have the voice they have long been denied for a quarter of a century by failed mayoral control of our schools. Chicago will finally have an elected board accountable to the people our schools serve, as it should be.
Our union is grateful to the grassroots movement that led with us in this fight. We owe special thanks to state representatives Kam Buckner and bill sponsor Delia Ramirez, Sen. Rob Martwick, Illinois Speaker Chris Welch and Senate President Don Harmon. All were instrumental in getting this landmark legislation to the governor’s desk. We are also thinking tonight about our beloved President Emerita Karen GJ Lewis, NBCT. This victory is hers as much as it is a victory for our city. Here’s to you, Karen.
The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in schools funded by City of Chicago School District 299, and by extension, over 350,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information, please visit the CTU website at www.ctulocal1.org.