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*** UPDATED x1 *** New hybrid Chicago school board plan floated

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

* From what I’m told, this elected Chicago school board idea is being pitched by Senate President Don Harmon. Other folks have to sign off, of course, but this appears to be the framework on which the solution will be built. Greg Hinz

According to reliable sources, what’s now being pitched is a 21-member board that would be elected in 2027. In the meantime, a “hybrid” 21-person board would be created, with 10 members elected in 2023 and 10 appointed by the mayor, as occurs now. The mayor also would appoint the chair, the 21st member, giving the city’s chief nominal but by no means certain control of the board.

The elections would occur on the same dates as city elections for mayor and aldermen.

Another feature of the latest plan: Two years into the hybrid period, an outside commission would take a look at how things are going and issue a public report that, if negative, could prompt the General Assembly to re-evaluate the situation.

*** UPDATE *** The Senate Executive Committee passed Sen. Martwick’s original bill with a promise to hold it on the floor pending a compromise. Martwick would not pledge to hold the bill forever, but Senate President Don Harmon said he was confident that a compromise would be found by the end of session.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

45 Comments
  1. - Wowie - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 10:13 am:

    Question (apologies if this has been discussed I’m late to the game on this): Would the school board members be elected citywide or would the city be divided into districts?


  2. - Downstate - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 10:15 am:

    I’ve served on boards with anywhere from 3-25 members. There’s a reason that most successful for profit and not-for-profit boards have 7-11 members. It’s considered the sweet spot for board engagement and productivity.


  3. - Annonin' - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 10:18 am:

    Sounds complicated and mixes a mayoral reelect with alremanic and these new school creatures.


  4. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 10:19 am:

    ===The elections would occur on the same dates as city elections for mayor and aldermen.===

    Where o where to begin on this twist. It’s a doozy.

    You could have a mayor, and a “slate” of 10 school board candidates “basically” running against other mayoral candidates views of CPS… and aldermen choosing too to run with or against CPS candidates and ideas to CPS… I mean the layers of raw ward politics here…

    …you could have a slate of 10 running an ad or two “we’re running against X and their destruction of CPS”, as a left-handed negative ad against any mayoral candidate. That’s for openers.

    It opens a door for CTU union negative ads while allegedly propagating candidates fir the board of CPS.

    Are aldermen gonna want one of the 10 on a slate to be friendly to their ward for… school upgrades… or any and all things school…

    It’s so tasty and ward-type politics, even looking at it citywide might be a mistake, it could come down to CTU/aldermen/activists/cash making the biggest splash well beyond 10 seats on a school board.

    It’s… wow.


  5. - Flyin' Elvis'-Utah Chapter - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 10:24 am:

    What Downstate said.

    21 members, 21 differing agendas.

    Looks like a whole lotta nothing changing.


  6. - DuPage Saint - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 10:24 am:

    How long are the terms? Will elections be staggered or can you have a completely new board after an election?


  7. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 10:26 am:

    ===21 members, 21 differing agendas===

    Yes, elections are just so darned democratic.


  8. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 10:27 am:

    === 21 differing agendas.===

    I see more of a 10 person slate by CTU and forcing others to bring a slate as well, with the Mayor having 11 seats and the chair…

    The worry here, even for Lightfoot AND for CTU is how many of the 10 can be slated to work for one agenda, and that agenda could run counter to the Mayor.

    3-5 rogue members… the mayor will allegedly have the majority, it’s how deep can that 10 dig and peel 1-2 of the appointed members with them.


  9. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 10:38 am:

    Also… if a mayor has 11 folks with 11 different agendas, that mayor hasn’t grasped what it means to appoint allies.

    If there are 3-5 rouge “elected” members, that’s democracy and might be better for a board than 10 members of a slate that can come in, be unified, and stir trouble.

    My take is votes and democracy should win out. Win elections, you make policy.

    Can CTU not only take 10 seats, but use the fulcrum of a left-handed campaign to take down *any* unfriendly mayor and pair with like-minded challenger/incumbent aldermen candidates… whew… this is wow.


  10. - dbk - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 10:39 am:

    The election schedule could be a political morass, yes.

    But I suspect a transitional format with a fairly quick timeline to “full elected” may be the best compromise.

    In addition to the schedule, which is overtly political (OTOH, off-year elections suffer rom low turnout), two points here:

    1) Caveat emptor: a Mayor (even) more hostile to an elected board but on good terms with the Gov/GA might achieve further delays;

    2) CTU isn’t going to be the major impediment here - it’ll be candidates funded by powerful special-interest groups, e.g. charter school billionaire backers. That caused havoc in LA.


  11. - Amalia - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 10:41 am:

    with a board that large, it may be all about an executive committee.


  12. - Chicago Cynic - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 10:47 am:

    This is a brilliant attempt to stop a horrifically bad idea. It’s not that I’m opposed to school board elections. But everyone knows how this is going to go. CTU will elect the school board. Then big corporate GOP money will be mobilized to stop them. Then astroturf orgs will spring up. Tons of money will be spent with none of it going towards improving education for kids. I get the politics but this will not end well. This compromise seems to make the best of a bad situation.


  13. - 1st Ward - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 10:50 am:

    “If there are 3-5 rouge “elected” members, that’s democracy”

    It would be tough to go “rouge” as the bully pulpit of the Mayor’s Office and ally’s should theoretically overpower a “rouge” member in the public square unless the “rouge” ones are CTU backed and CTU decides to use political capital when the majority are still appointed by the mayor and likely some who are elected would be sympathetic to the mayors agenda.


  14. - Just Me 2 - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 10:54 am:

    ===prompt the General Assembly to re-evaluate the situation.===

    Why not include an automatic sunset and if the G.A. does nothing it reverts back to an appointed board? /snark


  15. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 11:01 am:

    === Tons of money will be spent with none of it going towards improving education for kids===

    Yes, let’s cancel all elections because of campaign money.


  16. - Lucky Pierre - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 11:02 am:

    No surprise New York has the largest school district in the US

    984,000 kids with a school board of 13 members. 8 appointed by the mayor, one by each of the borough presidents

    LA is #2 with 633,000 kids and an elected school board of 7 members

    Chicago is #3 with 378,000 kids somehow proposes 21 members to the school board

    Miami is the fourth largest district, 357,000 kids. 9 members that are elected

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_largest_school_districts_in_the_United_States_by_enrollment


  17. - Fav Human - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 11:03 am:

    the layers of raw ward politics here…

    This is a feature, not a bug.

    CTU will elect the school board. Then big corporate GOP money will be mobilized to stop them

    Agree with the first, but not the second. Why would they care?

    rogue

    That depends if the mayor can fire them at will. And it’s possible an elected member might go wild, too.


  18. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 11:04 am:

    === It would be tough to go “rouge” as the bully pulpit of the Mayor’s Office and ally’s should theoretically overpower a “rouge” member in the public square unless the “rouge” ones are CTU backed===

    Utter nonsense.

    You know how hard it could/will be to win ALL ten seats?

    The thing about democracy is the opportunity to have voters decide. A slate gets bad ballot positions, 3-4 aldermen back 2-3 non CTU types for their own thoughts…

    Nothing is a slam dunk for anything, except for the fact Lori Lightfoot went against her campaign promise, and there’s no way Lightfoot can claim this as a win with her (or any mayor) still controlling the majority of seats. That a loser for Lightfoot.

    It’s more than possible that 2-3 rogue members could win.


  19. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 11:07 am:

    === the layers of raw ward politics here…

    This is a feature, not a bug.===

    Yep. It’s genius to that, and makes the campaigns themselves in theory could be far bigger than seating 10 members.

    Feature.

    Not a bug.


  20. - Bruce( no not him) - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 11:08 am:

    I don’t get all the drama. As a lifelong downstater, where every school board is elected, what are people scared of? Is democracy such a foreign concept?


  21. - Dan Johnson - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 11:12 am:

    I don’t understand why a few commenters say “CTU would elect the school board.” They don’t elect the mayor. They don’t elect the city council. They are an important constituency and get involved in local elections but … if the 40,000 or so teachers were really dominating citywide elections today, we’d have a different mayor. And a different council majority. Etc.


  22. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 11:14 am:

    === I don’t understand why a few commenters say “CTU would elect the school board.”===

    How many groups can run a slate of 10 candidates city-wide and speak to education better than teachers… and have the money to do all that?


  23. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 11:23 am:

    ===How many groups can run===

    The CTU’s mayoral candidate got 26.3 percent of the vote in a two-way runoff two years ago. Having money and troops is only part of the equation.


  24. - Humble Pies - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 11:24 am:

    -Chicago is #3 with 378,000 kids somehow proposes 21 members to the school board-

    CPS is down to 340,548 students.

    https://www.cps.edu/about/stats-facts/


  25. - Excitable Boy - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 11:25 am:

    You’re so right. Instead of a board let’s just have a school King that’s decided by birth. I think in Chicago it will have to be a Daley.


  26. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 11:27 am:

    === The CTU’s mayoral candidate got 26.3 percent of the vote in a two-way runoff two years ago. Having money and troops is only part of the equation.===

    Agreed. On point.

    I believe knowing how that played out, it’s more likely 2-3 “rogue” candidates can win.

    Winning all ten, that’s a tough ask, and how many groups can pull it off, and I doubt CTU can sweep.


  27. - Blue Dog - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 11:30 am:

    Hopefully the private schools can field a slate of candidates as well. They really seem to have a formula for educational excellence.


  28. - City Zen - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 11:39 am:

    All this focus on CTU. Don’t forget SEIU represents thousands of support staff personnel in CPS.


  29. - Excitable Boy - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 11:43 am:

    - formula for educational excellence. -

    Yeah, students that don’t meet expectations get kicked out and end up at public schools. How innovative.


  30. - City Zen - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 11:48 am:

    ==How many groups can run a slate of 10 candidates city-wide and speak to education better than teachers==

    Typically, school district employees can’t be a board member in the district in which they work. That wouldn’t preclude teachers residing in Chicago but working in school districts outside CPS from running. In all likelihood, they would be members of IEA, not IFT.


  31. - Friend of the Library - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 11:49 am:

    If you force Chicago teachers to live in the city, they have a right to vote in an election for a school board. That’s just the way it is.


  32. - Joe Bidenopolous - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 11:53 am:

    As a Chicagoan with kids in CPS who supports an elected school board, 21 is just too many members. Needs to be half or less.


  33. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 11:57 am:

    ===they would be members of IEA, not IFT.===

    … and that slate would be endorsed by CTU.

    The thing about these 10 seats… any group can slate 10 folks, run ‘em, fund ‘em, do all that needs to be done… but winning ALL 10… I mean… 3 is a big win, 5-6 would be huge for one group, 7 or more… I’ll take the “under” every time.

    I got back to my thoughts earlier;

    ===I mean the layers of raw ward politics here…

    …you could have a slate of 10 running an ad or two “we’re running against X and their destruction of CPS”, as a left-handed negative ad against any mayoral candidate. That’s for openers.

    It opens a door for CTU union negative ads while allegedly propagating candidates fir the board of CPS.

    Are aldermen gonna want one of the 10 on a slate to be friendly to their ward for… school upgrades… or any and all things school…===

    So much more of the politics to a city election will be at play, the left-handed ways, and “both ways” this school board election could shake out…

    Still… it’s not even close to what candidate Lightfoot says she was for… so it’s still a loser in policy for her


  34. - 1st Ward - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 12:03 pm:

    “You know how hard it could/will be to win ALL ten seats?”

    Not the point of my post. Majorities win and super minorities take a back seat. Focusing on 3 - 5 “rogue” members but forgetting about the other 15 - 17 who are not “rogue” when only 11 are needed to form a majority. This is DSA type thinking. Out of 50 city council members there are 5 members in the caucus. Some would say they are “rogue” given their positions relative to the rest. What have they achieved outside of racket and loud noises? Defund the police should have been an easy one given the moment. Epic fail.


  35. - thisjustinagain - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 12:19 pm:

    Talk about a non-solution; the hybrid board and the GA later returning to evaluate. There’s nothing to evaluate. Time for an all-elected board like the rest of the State. All they need to do is figure out how many board members. Use the existing directional boundaries (such as North/NW/S/SW/E sides, Loop, etc.) as the new CPS “Commissioner” boundaries. So you’re at 6-7 votes so far. How big a board do you need to actually make decisions? The Mayor should not be appointing anyone to the new board; that’s the point of having an elected board. But this is Illinois, so I won’t hold my breath.


  36. - Wowie - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 12:34 pm:

    ==Still… it’s not even close to what candidate Lightfoot says she was for… so it’s still a loser in policy for her==

    Agree with everything else in your comment but (respectfully) disagree on this one. Voters aren’t huge on nuance so I think Lori’s team could say “the Mayor delivered on an elected schoolboard for Chicago — something no other Mayor could ever get done.”

    I’m sure some people will call foul but to the majority of voters I think they’ll view this as a win for Lori.


  37. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 12:37 pm:

    === Agree with everything else in your comment but (respectfully) disagree on this one. Voters aren’t huge on nuance so I think Lori’s team could say “the Mayor delivered on an elected schoolboard for Chicago — something no other Mayor could ever get done.”===

    The mayor still controls the board.

    Not much nuance is needed to explain that.


  38. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 12:43 pm:

    - Wowie -

    And with respect to you too, it just may depend on how much blowback, be it aldermen, in the wards, parents, CTU, even allies… give to this… and that’s saying it even passes.


  39. - Ashland Adam - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 12:54 pm:

    Lots to comment on:

    a. CTU members endorse candidates for alderman every four years. A few win these races, or are re-elected, but CTU member-endorsed candidates lose also. Its reasonable to assume that school board elections would break out along similar lines - not every group who endorses candidates would see their candidates win. Win some, lose some.

    b. Same can be said of state legislators. A few are strong allies of CPS Educators - a few won their seats with funding from INCs - the Charter industry. Most legislators are in the middle somewhere.

    c. 28 State Rep seats include Chicago precincts. 8 of these are mostly suburban-based, and only dip into Chicago for a few precincts. So - about 20 state rep seats are mostly Chicago.

    d. 20 state rep seats - similar to 20 city school board seats. Small enough for community-based campaigns, small enough NOT to depend on big outside money. This is why 20 seats are proposed for an elected school board.


  40. - ZC - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 12:59 pm:

    Let’s not lose track, in all this debate, about what this new CPS board would have the power to do - or not do.

    It still wouldn’t have the power to truly raise revenue to fund CPS and its current pension mess, right? It still depends on Springfield for permission to really adjust the property tax levy.

    I can’t get too invested in the politics of any new elected body that doesn’t control its own revenue. A bunch of elections about how “We need to spend more to fund Chicago Public Schools - and if you elect me, I won’t have the power to do much!” is … well …


  41. - Ashland Adam - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 1:23 pm:

    The appointed Chicago Board of Ed made these decisions:

    Hiring BB Bennett, and approving SUPES Academy Contracts for Principal Training:
    Chicago Trib - ‘Ex-CPS head, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, imprisoned for Kickbacks,’ https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/breaking/ct-cps-barbara-byrd-bennett-contracts-20210106-4h6egwi2cfdmhl5l27dbxxkm5e-story.html

    Appointed CEO Vallas made the decision to default on pension payments in 1995. This began the journey from 100% funded to 50% funded.
    https://www.chicagomag.com/city-life/june-2013/chicago-public-schools-pension-bomb/

    Hired Forrest Claypool:
    “CPS Watchdog: Claypool Should be Fired For ‘Cover-Up,’ ‘Repeatedly Lying’”
    https://news.wttw.com/2017/12/07/cps-watchdog-claypool-should-be-fired-cover-repeatedly-lying

    School Board members, duly elected to represent their communities, and not just filling a slot at the behest of the Mayor, would have an interest in better vetting decisions like these.

    And - they’d be accountable to those who elected them.


  42. - James - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 3:54 pm:

    It’s not a compromise, and Harmon knows it.

    It remains total mayoral control of CPS with 11 of 21 board members for the next 6 years, and a token minority of the elected 10, with the possibility that some outside “report” will extend the 6 year period.

    A real compromise would be the Senate passing the original bill with a sunset clause, so the elected board can face reenactment in a few years and changes could be made if democracy turns out to be such a bad idea.

    The elected Board concept has been overwhelmingly supported by the voters in numerous advisory referenda.


  43. - CTU whisperer - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 5:35 pm:

    Glad it seems the consensus on here is reasonable. CTU knows that school board elections aren’t a clear path to controlling a school board. In fact mayoral control is a much more straightforward way of weilding influence. If the Burke indictment doesn’t
    happen, very strong chance of TP winning. CTU knows other forces will spend money, more money in fact. They also wanted a larger board to create smaller districts to allow folks to run grassroots campaigns that can defeat a better funded candidate. They also know that some of the people they support won’t actually support their issues. Happens in City Council already.

    No matter what the future holds wrt to the balance of power, an elected school board is a civil rights issue. In IL, school boards are elected. FULL STOP. Just like Mayor, city councils, village presidents, and a gazillion other offices. CPS is majority black and brown and serves the largest numbers of black and brown students and families. They can’t be subjected to any less democracy than any other voter. That’s just a matter of fairness and equal protection. Regardless of who controls what, this a fundamental issue of democracy. Anything less than that is a violation of justice and if that justice is delayed, it’s denied as the Mayor said about the courts reopening. No compromise, no hybrid. Elected school board like every other district in thr state. Full stop.


  44. - Sn1848 - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 7:22 pm:

    The concern trolling about the size of the board and CTU’s magical ability to dominate in these elections (when it is far from dominating other elected offices in the city)is offered in bad faith. The large number of seats does favor less spendy, more grassroots campaigns - and that is a good thing. Just pass the Martwick bill. The “compromise” bills are backhanded efforts to deflect democracy.

    Also, City Colleges also has a board appointed by the mayor and Martwick has a similar bill for CCC. It’s time to bring real democracy to all levels of public education in Chicago.


  45. - Ashland Adam - Wednesday, May 26, 21 @ 7:42 pm:

    Agreeing wholeheartedly w above posts.

    The ERSB bill would pass as is, the votes would be there, if the Sen. Pres. doesn’t hold it up.

    The City Colleges board should also be called for a vote.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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