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When the mayor-elect wants a bricked bill, the mayor-elect usually gets a bricked bill

Tuesday, May 14, 2019 - Posted by Rich Miller


Parents and advocates gathered downtown Monday to call on Illinois Senate President John Cullerton to vote on a bill that would make Chicago’s school board elected rather than appointed, but Cullerton’s office says he’s holding the bill at the request of Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot.

Lightfoot supports an elected school board but expressed deep reservations about the bill pending in the State House, calling the large board called for in the legislation a “recipe for disaster.” She did not respond to WBEZ’s request for comment on Monday.

That bill, which would create a 21-member board, passed the House in early April. Since then, advocates have been demanding a Senate vote before the legislative session ends May 31.

“For years, the people of Chicago have been fighting for an elected school board,” said Karina Martinez, a member of the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council. “Yet, here I am standing three years later, still demanding and still waiting for an elected school board in the city.”

* Sun-Times

In an interview with WBEZ, Lightfoot said she was familiar with Martwick’s bill, but did not think a board of 20 members and a president was a good idea.

Martwick told the gathering Monday: “With 20 of them, now you have an opportunity for every group to be represented at the table, and you put more of an emphasis on grassroots organizing and you limit the influence of outside money. This structure will work. … It has been heavily vetted over the course of the last 3 1/2 years by the House of Representatives and it has passed three times with overwhelming majorities.”

The activists urged Lightfoot to push for an elected school board and for Cullerton to get the bill moving in the Senate. But John Patterson, Cullerton’s spokesman, confirmed that Lightfoot asked the Senate president to hold the measure so she could look into the issue.

Under Martwick’s proposal, the board would be comprised of 20 members elected in individual districts from around the city, compared to the seven appointed members currently on the Chicago Board of Education. And a board president would be elected citywide.

* Chalkbeat

The measure passed the Illinois House in April but has yet to make its way through the state Senate amid Lightfoot’s reticence, according to the office of State Senate President John Cullerton.

“The mayor-elect did ask the Senate president to hold onto the bill so she can look into the issue more, so that’s the current status of the bill,” Cullerton’s spokesman, John Patterson, said Monday evening. […]

As for the timing, [Jeanette Taylor, alderman-elect in the 20th Ward] acknowledged that Lightfoot might need some time to weigh all these issues and others. However, dragging her feet could hold consequences for the mayor-elect, Taylor warned.

“She has four years in her term like everybody else,” Taylor said. “Chicago will make her answer.”

One of the reasons Lightfoot traveled to Springfield was to put a brick on Martwick’s bill (among others). She probably could’ve done that with a phone call or a meeting in Chicago, but it was a good idea to make the trip anyway.

…Adding… It’s important to remember that Rep. Martwick’s bill doesn’t take effect until 2023. That’s four years from now. There’s no reason that it absolutely must pass this month, just a few days after Lightfoot is sworn in. People really need to take a breath here.


  1. - Perrid - Tuesday, May 14, 19 @ 10:52 am:

    She’s said she wants a smaller board and more restrictions on who can be elected. I’ll eat my hat if that doesn’t actually mean she wants it to be easier for her/the mayor to control. We’ll see.

  2. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Tuesday, May 14, 19 @ 10:58 am:

    Why 21? Anyone know how that number got picked?

  3. - Montrose - Tuesday, May 14, 19 @ 10:59 am:

    “Why 21? Anyone know how that number got picked?”

    That way the board can drink, and they are going to need a stiff one.

  4. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, May 14, 19 @ 10:59 am:

    I’m a little surprised that Martwick hasn’t backed down on this after the shellacking his candidate received last month. If he wants to raise his profile by taking on Mayor Lightfoot, he should expect consequences.

    IMO, especially for him, the smarter play is to work with the new mayor and find a way to reach an agreement on a bill that can pass. I mean, if he wants an elected school board. If he only wants a high profile fight, then by all means, he should keep doing what he’s doing.

  5. - wordslinger - Tuesday, May 14, 19 @ 11:00 am:

    Seems counter-intuitive that a mayor would want a smaller board. Presumably, members would come from larger geographic areas, aka political bases, and might get ideas about stepping up.

    There’s a reason mayors like a 50-member City Council. Nobody can get too big.

  6. - Charlie Brown - Tuesday, May 14, 19 @ 11:04 am:

    1) It’s almost June. Lightfoot’s had six months to pick a number between 7 and 21, and the fact she hasn’t makes it look like she’s just trying to kill the bill;

    2) When you argue you are trying to ensure the rights of local school activists to run, and local school activists say “Thanks, but no thanks”, it looks bad for your credibility.

    3) Every day that passes, this looks worse.

  7. - City Zen - Tuesday, May 14, 19 @ 11:04 am:

    LAUSD has about a quarter million more students than CPS and only 7 school board members.

  8. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Tuesday, May 14, 19 @ 11:04 am:

    ==That way the board can drink, and they are going to need a stiff one.==
    You’d think the members numbers in Cullerton’s bill would be multiple of 6, if that was the case.

  9. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, May 14, 19 @ 11:06 am:

    ===Every day that passes, this looks worse. ===

    Take a breath she’s not even sworn in yet. Sheesh.

  10. - A guy - Tuesday, May 14, 19 @ 11:07 am:

    Half that size would seem about right. You might not want them to get too big, but if someone is a big enough PITA, you want them to get big enough for people to notice and get rid of them. The entire Cook County Board is 18. To me, 11 is plenty and could represent all the diversity and territory in the city.

  11. - City Zen - Tuesday, May 14, 19 @ 11:27 am:

    ==The entire Cook County Board is 18==

    LA County has 10 million people but only 5 “supervisors” on their board.

  12. - Robert the Bruce - Tuesday, May 14, 19 @ 11:37 am:

    Some other school district board counts:

    Los Angeles - 7
    Houston - 9
    Miami - 9
    Broward County - 9
    Clark County (Vegas) - 7

    Houston is also a mess, I believe…so this doesn’t mean 7-9 is the way to go just because other large districts do it this way.

  13. - ChicagoVinny - Tuesday, May 14, 19 @ 11:37 am:

    ===Why 21? Anyone know how that number got picked?===

    Field two softball teams and 3 umps.

  14. - anon - Tuesday, May 14, 19 @ 11:38 am:

    Like Goldilocks, every number will be either too big or too little …

  15. - Groucho. - Tuesday, May 14, 19 @ 11:43 am:

    At the end of the day, Lightfoot probably knows this is a bad idea. She is soon to be responsible for producing a City budgets that will most likely have to include some major tax hikes and service cuts. For her to not have control over how the CPS budgets look will complicate the Mayor’s job.

  16. - Grand Avenue - Tuesday, May 14, 19 @ 12:10 pm:

    No Mayor would feel comfortable with the Citywide Elected School Board President - who will be in a position to grab headlines and basically spend four years positioning him or herself to run for Mayor.

  17. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Tuesday, May 14, 19 @ 12:29 pm:

    ==At the end of the day, Lightfoot probably knows this is a bad idea.==
    A bad idea she ran on.

  18. - The Most Anonymous - Tuesday, May 14, 19 @ 1:02 pm:

    Meh. I hear you about taking a breath, but she’s been quietly making moves that are far weaker than the campaign promises she made. I think she’s surrounded by some political and government novices who are still learning the ropes so hopefully they figure it out by the time she actually is sworn in. She and her team should beware of her pride and her disdain for anyone who challenges her. Not the best way to build coalitions and get stuff done. You’re not a million dollar partner at a law firm anymore.

  19. - Amalia - Tuesday, May 14, 19 @ 1:10 pm:

    anyone know where the term “put a brick on it” comes from?

  20. - Groucho - Tuesday, May 14, 19 @ 1:24 pm:

    =A bad idea she ran on.=
    Now the rubber meets road. Lincoln Yards ring a bell.

  21. - Charlie Brown - Tuesday, May 14, 19 @ 1:51 pm:

    === She’s not even sworn in yet ===

    …and yet, she is bricking bills and summiting at the White House.

    The problam for the Lightfoot Camp on this one is there is no “middle of the road” expert to turn to.

    The progressives are all for the Martwick bill, and The Tribbies all want to kill the bill.

  22. - Powdered Whig - Tuesday, May 14, 19 @ 2:13 pm:

    === The progressives are all for the Martwick bill ===

    Its bc the CTU is hoping to pack the school board so that they can obtain more favorable terms for their members.

  23. - BAP - Tuesday, May 14, 19 @ 2:47 pm:

    Powdered Whig, that’s exactly why I’m opposed to an elected board.

  24. - Shytown - Tuesday, May 14, 19 @ 3:15 pm:

    Lightfoot is right to slow down the train and take a fresh look as this would have a huge impact on the city.

  25. - wordslinger - Tuesday, May 14, 19 @ 6:31 pm:

    –…and yet, she is bricking bills and summiting at the White House.–

    A meet-and-greet with a staff member does not quite equate with a “summit.”

  26. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Wednesday, May 15, 19 @ 6:11 am:

    ==She is soon to be responsible for producing a City budgets that will most likely have to include some major tax hikes and service cuts. For her to not have control over how the CPS budgets look will complicate the Mayor’ job.==

    Or give her some breathing room. Let’s face it , Rahm’s handpicked board of business experts and movers and shakers was the worst. I don’t know if they were just dialing it in because they were so busy with their careers or what. We had sexual predators being hired and schools left vile and filthy.

    Let’s give an elected school board a chance. Don’t underestimate what a passionate amateur can accomplish.

  27. - BAP - Wednesday, May 15, 19 @ 8:22 am:

    The schools are not vile and filthy. That’s a story pushed by upset public union workers who lost their jobs.

  28. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Wednesday, May 15, 19 @ 10:19 am:

    Funny you ignore the hiring of sex offenders.

    Ok here’s the stories:

  29. - Chris G. - Wednesday, May 29, 19 @ 11:43 am:

    Chicago has 50 aldermen. The city is represented by 19 state reps in Springfield. The number is designed to ensure that every community, from the Southeast Side to the Northwest Side, is represented, as they are in Springfield and the City Council, in walkable districts. LA’s seven member board was dominated in the last campaign by bejillions of dollars in campaign contributions from charter proponents and school privatizers, and that got the city strikes by both public school and charter educators. If the concern is that big bucks and special interests could dominate elections, then Lightfoot could propose groundbreaking campaign finance legislation that could limit the influence of special interest groups and individuals, and set a model of progressive campaign finance reform for the nation, ala a more forward-thinking version of New York City’s Campaign Finance Board. This is not a new bill, Lightfoot campaigned on her support of an elected, representative school board (with this bill already well in play), Chicagoans have overwhelmingly expressed their support for the initiative — yet now the new mayor wants to stall the process. Huh.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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