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CPS testifies against elected school board

Thursday, Mar 16, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* A House committee approved a bill yesterday to elect members of the Chicago Public Schools board over CPS opposition

“An elected school board would have no more authority than our existing board to raise additional revenue for Chicago Public Schools — and revenue is at the root of our problem,” Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson testified.

She told legislators that CPS students are on an upward academic swing, despite the district’s gaping $129 million budget hole, and don’t need any more instability she believes such a large elected body would impose.

Former school board vice president Jesse Ruiz, who recently protested the Board of Ed himself, joined her, calling the bill “a grave mistake.”

He said the bill would create the largest school board of any major urban district and would diffuse the accountability among 21 politicians instead of resting with just one: The mayor of Chicago.

* More

“I’m not here to make a generalization about elected versus appointed school boards and its impact in any school district,” Jackson told a House panel. “But I am here to say that for Chicago Public Schools, we have been governed in a particular way — and that is being threatened. And I believe that there will be an impact on academic outcomes because of the lack of stability.

“Nobody knows that having an elected school board is going to lead to higher outcomes for our students. So in a district like Chicago, with a large population of minority students and low-income students, why would we threaten that when we’re on the right trajectory?” she said.

I dunno. These arguments seem pretty darned weak to me. Your own thoughts?


  1. - Midway Gardens - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 11:29 am:

    The real fear is the teacher’s union will run candidates and control both sides of the negotiation. But the last elected school board sent the schools into State receivership so no cure all.

  2. - Anonymous - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 11:32 am:

    Spot on Rich. CPS governance is different than every other district in the state,and student outcomes have not been good. If they are going to argue for the status quo, then they need to provide evidence as to why the status quo is better.

  3. - West Sider - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 11:37 am:

    Elections mean that CPS become an even bigger political football. They need revenue. Unless elections brings a larger tax base, they accomplish nothing.

  4. - Precinct Captain - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 11:39 am:

    Midway, Chicago has never had an elected school board

  5. - Downstate Illinois - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 11:42 am:

    A 21-member anything seems like a joke. I’ve seen what farces a 15-member county board is like. Granted an independent school board would more likely support property hikes than City Hall, Chicago’s machine politics would seem to damper any real independence. Fears of union dominance are legitimate.

  6. - Last Bull Moose - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 11:43 am:

    CPS is too large to manage and reform. Split it into smaller pieces. Some of the pieces will find a way to success. Some pieces will continue to fail.

    Get rid of the requirement that teachers live in Chicago.

  7. - 30 years a lawyer - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 11:46 am:

    Defending the Mayoral School Board right now is impossible. They were fine with the Daley pension holiday that created their current predicament. There were fine with all the scoop and toss debt that has them paying bankers a big slice of every tax dollar. The school closure was a debacle, concentrating on elementary schools when the real issue was and is the low occupancy rates in neighborhood high schools. SUPES was Board approved. Janitor contract that is a disaster. They Board should either be elected or eliminated and just let the Mayor CPS without the puppetry.

  8. - LarryM - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 11:51 am:

    So that trajectory thing: What is the CPS and its appointed board’s managed graduation rate in 2015 vs 2016? Anyone??
    ====”Jackson told a House panel. “But I am here to say that for Chicago Public Schools, we have been governed in a particular way — and that is being threatened. And I believe that there will be an impact on academic outcomes because of the lack of stability”"

    So you are stating the elected board will present instability as compared to the current model.

    WOW- If not instability, what in the world do we have now in the current old way CPS system? @pagingBagdadBob

  9. - Gooner - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 11:58 am:

    Midway Gardens states my fear.

    This would be an easy way for the union to dump money into a down-ballot race and in doing so, control their own wage and benefit package.

    I’m pro-union, but things need to be done at arms-length. I don’t see that as being likely with an elected school board.

  10. - West Sider - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 12:02 pm:

    - Last Bull Moose - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 11:43 am:

    “CPS is too large to manage and reform. Split it into smaller pieces. Some of the pieces will find a way to success. Some pieces will continue to fail.

    Get rid of the requirement that teachers live in Chicago.”

    Please tell us how this offers Chicago a better city, and a more equitable education.

  11. - Sir Reel - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 12:20 pm:

    I’m not an expert on Chicago schools, but the rinkydink rural school district my kids went to had an elected board. That’s what “local control” means.

    That said, 21 members almost guarantees disfunction.

  12. - Puddintaine - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 12:32 pm:

    Downstate IL is spot on. Twenty something individuals have trouble agreeing where lunch is going to be, let alone important issues. If you go bigger than five things get slow, greater than eight and you’re locked in stasis. #scrumAgile peoples

  13. - lake county democrat - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 12:39 pm:

    As I understand it, CPS has the ability to raise property taxes on its own (to a certain extent). If so, that’s a HUGE difference from most (all?) other Illinois districts.

    How about this: give CPS the ability to declare bankruptcy, take away the ability to increase taxes, and then give them an elected school board.

    Oh, and make the elections in November, even years. Suburbanites know all-too-well the tactic of rallying the parents to pass bond referendums under the radar.

  14. - NeverPoliticallyCorrect - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 12:53 pm:

    I am a currently serving school board member and my fellow board members have discussed CPS many times. this is what we think. 1. Break up the district, it’s too big for meaningful local control and accountability. 2. You already have an elected school board- the mayor. I know that’s not how they spin it but it’s reality. This is too concentrated in power. Make the entire board elected. In a smaller district people will feel their vote means more. 3. Make CPS play by the same rules all the other districts play by, including financial responsibility. The kids deserve nothing less.

  15. - Amalia - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 1:01 pm:

    Chicago is not like the burbs. An election in Chicago would be dominated by the Teachers union. given what they won’t give in discussions, how would they cut a budget? If it were possible to get the same kinds of candidates in the City as the burbs, concerned parents/citizens/not entrenched self interested, then it would be fine. but it is not. no elected school board in Chicago.

  16. - City Zen - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 1:06 pm:

    Los Angeles USD has an elected school board but only 7 board members, along with and 50% more students than CPS.

    What was the reasoning behind 21 board members?

  17. - Anonymous - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 1:10 pm:

    Rich, do you remember back then when a poverty program at Chicago’s Roberto Clemente High School were used to support a Puerto Rican independence program and to free convicted terrorists? Well imagine what could happen when local school councils take over. School funds used to free terrorists: and Chicago high school faces probe:

  18. - Elliott Ness - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 1:13 pm:

    Good city for a hybrid model of elected and some appointed might work, worth a try, obviously current model does not work!

  19. - PublicServant - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 1:22 pm:

    I kind of like the one throat to choke mayor, if something goes wrong.

  20. - Keyser Soze - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 1:23 pm:

    Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken. Wait, scratch that. And, by the way, a board, commission, committee, etc. of 21 members is just a cluster.

  21. - Anonymous - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 1:26 pm:

    =CPS governance is different than every other district in the state,and student outcomes have not been good.=

    You haven’t been paying attention. CPS academic performance at record levels; college attendance rate near national average; gains in recent years outstripping state schools and peers nationally. Steady, improved student outcomes since beginning of mayoral control in 1995.

  22. - Juice - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 1:31 pm:

    lake county democrat, CPS does not have the ability to raise property taxes on its own. They’re capped by PTELL just like every other district in Cook and the collars.

    Only way to raise the levy above inflation is through a referendum. (Other than the property tax hike for CPS that the Governor signed off on last year)

  23. - W Flag - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 1:33 pm:

    Weak is right!

    Elected school boards are in place everywhere else in Illinois in districts which serve elementary, high school and community college students. If Chicago had a record of success in education, an appointed board might be defensible. That is not the case, mayoral appointments in Chicago have not freed the Chicago Board of Education or the City Colleges of Chicago from political interference and patronage abuses. Holding elections in Chicago will not politicize education because it already is subject to political corruption. Elected boards did not rubber stamp Barbara Byrd Bennett, Wayne Watson, or the inept Cheryl Hyman. Mayoral politics did.

  24. - Shemp - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 1:34 pm:

    Why the concern over the union running the ir candidates? They seem to think they know better. Let them run it awhile. Nothing more I would love to watch than Karen Lewis on the defense instead of freely spewing her other world logic.

  25. - Clark - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 1:44 pm:

    So if I’m understanding correctly, CPS is arguing that they should keep their clouted jobs because it wouldn’t solve their revenue problem? I’m almost positive that the root of their problems does not start with a lack of revenue, but it started with financial ineptitude and mismanagement.

  26. - JS Mill - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 2:01 pm:

    Elected School Boards are not the be all end all. They can actually make problems worse. They are not professionals in the field of education and yet they have the power to over ride or impose decisions that directly impact classroom instruction.

    I appreciate the people who volunteer for Board service, they usually get nothing but headaches for their service other than maybe a free meal once or twice a year.

    Boards that listen to the advice and ask questions (demand a full explanation) of the educators they hire, while holding the educators accountable for outcomes, are usually the key to a successful school district.

    But some boards act very politically and base decisions on what is good for friends and relatives and not what is best for kids. These are bad boards and the can do a lot of damage.

    There are too many of the latter and not enough of the former today.

    CPS is not well run. The Board is a proxy for Rahm Emmanuel and is not led by a professional educator in Claypool. An elected Board probably does not make an impact at CPS and could actually make things much worse. CTU will have a slate of candidates and could drive decision making that does not balance the needs of students versus the needs of staff. It is also possible, based on the working of other Boards in the state, that an elected Board could actually worsen the financial condition of CPS.

    Nothing is guaranteed but there is a distinct possibility for things to get worse.

  27. - allknowingmasterofracoondom - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 2:04 pm:

    Terrible, weak, arguments. The argument should be - “If we go to an elected board, our system of patronage will be wrecked, and who will tell Uncle Charlie his 3 kids can’t have a job next year?”

  28. - Rod - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 2:05 pm:

    The correct bill number for this session is HB 1774. I used the bill number from last session, sorry.

  29. - Amalia - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 2:05 pm:

    the perception is that some schools are not given money because they are in poor neighborhoods. what about the most overcrowded high school in the city? Grease’s Taft High School. it’s not remotely near a poor neighborhood. will that school be able to get anything more with one of 21 reps to serve it?

  30. - Shytown - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 2:13 pm:

    That’s all CPS needs…more bureaucracy and more politics and more money spent outside the classroom.

  31. - CPS Watcher - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 2:20 pm:

    =If Chicago had a record of success in education, an appointed board might be defensible.=

    Please do your homework. CPS has had a remarkable ascent in academic performance since mayoral control, including record graduation, college attendance and test scores last year. 4- year college attendance now almost same as nation, a remarkable feat for a district with 85 percent poverty rate.

  32. - Rod - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 2:26 pm:

    To some of the issues being discussed, which are in my opinion all legitimate and intelligent concerns. The idea of having 20 voting districts in a city as diverse as Chicago is not in the least bit absurd. There is no question it would create the need to forge ethnic, racial, and social class alliances among Board members in order to get things done. I don’t see that as all bad.

    As for the CTU being able to get elected whoever they want, I am not sure about that at all. There would likely be candidates running against property tax increases just like anywhere else, there would likely will be candidates running against the contracts the Board has given to the CTU, and there would likely will be candidates running supporting charter schools or even vouchers for private schools for that matter.

    The CPS Board has been marching to the tune of the Mayor for years and that tune has led to fiscal disaster and massive corruption. Under existing law the Board has the right to call a referendum to exceed the property tax cap to generate revenue, but a Mayoral Board would never take such a risk because it would effectively mean the Mayor was advocating the increase. As a Chicagoan I am highly aware of our increasing property tax rates and equally aware of how artificially low they were for years as many non-Chicagoans on this blog have pointed to for many years.

    Really only an elected school Board can impose both austerity on CPS and advocate tax increase above the cap. It would have the moral authority to at least try to accomplish some semblance of fiscal sanity at CPS.

  33. - Precinct Captain - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 2:32 pm:

    ==- CPS Watcher - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 2:20 pm:==

    CPS has never had an elected school board, so what you’re arguing against is past appointment schemes.

  34. - Anonymous - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 2:33 pm:

    “CPS has had a remarkable ascent in academic performance since mayoral control…”

    What a laughable assertion! The Chicago Board of Education has consisted of mayoral appointees for more than century. So, yes, if you are comparing modern graduation rates against an earlier time when the city had three high schools and attendance was not mandatory beyond grade school and wooden sidewalks and horse drawn carriages were the norm, I guess you have a statistical point. ROFLMAO! I mean honestly, Republican mayors had the ability to appoint members of the Chicago Board of Education and the last one left office in 1931.

  35. - Last Bull Moose - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 2:37 pm:

    West Sider,

    The requirement that city and school employees live within the city is a holdover from patronage politics. The political effect now is to give employees considerable political power. I think they have too much, but that is a personal opinion.

    Large organizations spend more effort coordinating. When you try to turn around an organization, it usually works better if you can break it into smaller pieces and fix pieces separately.

    Decentralization usually fosters innovation. Having more and smaller districts will encourage innovation.

    Equity is less important to me than effectiveness. Poor schools for all is equitable but ineffective.

  36. - Anonymous - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 2:40 pm:

    Emanuel’s Chancellor at the City Colleges of Chicago has an apartment in the city and a sizable house in the South suburbs. No residency investigation for the clouted.

  37. - Anonymous - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 2:43 pm:

    Anyone with even passing familiarity with the disastrous decisions of Local School Councils (LSCs) in Chicago should be terrified at the prospect of the entire district being run by a similar cast of characters.

  38. - Juice - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 2:54 pm:

    Last Bull Moose, the main reason why City employees are required to living in Chicago (not just CPS employees) is its was used as a mechanism to keep a sizable middle class living in the city instead of abandoning it for the suburbs a la Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, etc.

  39. - Last Bull Moose - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 2:58 pm:


    I agree that is part of it.

  40. - Anon - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 3:09 pm:

    The bill should ban campaign contributions to school board members/candidates from anyone doing business with the school district, including unions negotiating labor contracts with them.

  41. - Skirmisher - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 3:46 pm:

    Unbelievable. For once I am in complete agreement with CPS.

  42. - JS Mill - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 4:17 pm:

    =or even vouchers for private schools for that matter.=

    That is not the role of the school Board. Their role is to oversee the operation and create policy and vision for implementation by administration.

    =As for the CTU being able to get elected whoever they want, I am not sure about that at all.=

    I don’t see anyone here making that assertion, especially me. I did say they would have a slate of candidates, and they will. Either endorsed or more directly influenced. Whether or not they get elected is another situation. But it could be a disruptive influence given how little CTU understands or cares about the finances.

    =Really only an elected school Board can impose both austerity on CPS and advocate tax increase above the cap. It would have the moral authority to at least try to accomplish some semblance of fiscal sanity at CPS. =

    You really are testifying to how little you understand about school boards.

  43. - Amalia - Thursday, Mar 16, 17 @ 6:00 pm:

    CPS Watcher is correct. there is some real progress and there are some great schools. We need to help everyone get through high school and even those who go into some trade need those basic skills. but there is a weird assumption that every kid is college material, a combination of lofty aspirations and unrealistic parents. not everyone is college material. it’s way past time that discerning the skills and talents of individuals is something that happens and that CPS provides different kinds of programs for different paths in life.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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