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Elected Chicago school board roundup

Thursday, Jun 17, 2021 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Rachel Hinton at the Sun-Times

Chicago will soon have an elected school board thanks to a bill passed by members of the Illinois House Wednesday over objections from Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

The House voted 70 to 41 to advance the bill, handing another loss to Lightfoot who has been vocal in her opposition to the prospect of an elected board. The bill will soon head to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who has voiced support for an elected board and is expected to sign the legislation.

The measure was just one piece of legislation state representatives debated and passed during their one-day special session Wednesday.

House Bill 2908 as amended would create a 21-seat board in January 2025, initially split between 11 mayoral appointees — including the board president — and 10 elected members.

* Erik Runge and Tahman Bradley at WGN

Last-minute pleas from the mayor to stop, make changes or slow down Wednesday’s vote did not prove successful.

* Sarah Karp at WBEZ

As she made her closing argument for the bill, Delia Ramirez (D-Chicago), the House sponsor, urged lawmakers to take “final action.”

“I invite you to be on the right side of history, by voting … and finally, giving my niece and my nephew and all of us who wished in our public schools, when we were there, [that we had] an elected representative school board that is accountable to us,” she said. […]

Ramirez promised subsequent bills to clean up some outstanding issues, including campaign finance rules. These outstanding issues were raised by opponents of the bill, who said their absence meant it wasn’t ready for passage. But Ramirez said the parents who worked for the elected board for more than a decade deserved this assurance that the city would move to an elected school board.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently reiterated his support for an elected board. But before committing to signing this year’s bill, Pritzker said he is waiting to see whether the House would change it. The bill will not immediately go to his desk because Ramirez placed a temporary procedural hold on it. Ramirez said that was done to protect the bill from opponents and to give Lightfoot an opportunity to negotiate some outstanding issues.

* Mark Rivera at ABC 7

Gov. JB Pritzker’s office released a statement following the passage of the bill, saying, “When the governor ran for office he supported an elected school board and still does.”

Pritzker will be at Chicago’s Thompson Center Thursday morning to discuss the state’s budget, and he’ll likely be asked about the legislation. CPS has not yet issued a statement on the decision.

* Rick Pearson and Dan Petrella at the Tribune

Ramirez also said a variety of issues, including the financial entanglement of city and CPS, were raised only in recent days and contended it appeared to be people “playing games” to try to derail the overall legislation.

But Rep. Bob Rita, a Blue Island Democrat, warned about unintended consequences in moving the bill with a number of follow-up issues still needing to be addressed.

“I’m hoping that we’re not going to go forward and that this is going to be something that, down the line, we’re going to say our intentions were right and we did it wrong,” Rita said.

In debate on the House floor before the vote, Chicago Democratic state Rep. Ann Williams said the elected school board issue has been the most talked about topic from her constituents during her decadelong tenure in the General Assembly.


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.


  1. - Pundent - Thursday, Jun 17, 21 @ 8:46 am:

    = When the governor ran for office he supported an elected school board and still does.”=

    Ouch. And meanwhile the mayor continues to throw bombs while seemingly acting oblivious to this point.

  2. - Chicagonk - Thursday, Jun 17, 21 @ 9:18 am:

    Unintended consequences will be the theme of this legislative session.

  3. - Montrose - Thursday, Jun 17, 21 @ 9:27 am:

    One would hope this would be a teaching moment for Lightfoot. That her approach thus far hasn’t worked, and that she should take a different path to getting things done. I highly doubt this will be the case.

  4. - lake county democrat - Thursday, Jun 17, 21 @ 9:48 am:

    Did voters want an elected school board twice the size of New York City’s and three times the size of Los Angeles too?

  5. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jun 17, 21 @ 9:53 am:

    === Did voters want…===

    Being able to vote for a school board is a big deal.

    Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.

    It’ll be interesting as slates are made and run. Democracy is messy at times.

  6. - cermak_rd - Thursday, Jun 17, 21 @ 10:03 am:

    I think this will be a good thing. One of the things one notices when they look at the CTU demands of the past decade is how much they became about good of the students even when those goods were not normally things that unions argue for. I think in a way CTU was filling a vacuum of someone needing to advocate for the students. I believe unions should advocate for their members.

    So the school board could return advocating for students and families about things CPS could be offering to the school board and then the union can focus on their members needs.

  7. - @misterjayem - Thursday, Jun 17, 21 @ 10:45 am:

    “Last-minute pleas from the mayor to stop, make changes or slow down Wednesday’s vote did not prove successful.”

    Perhaps her last-minute pleas were unsuccessful because she spent every other monument being unnecessarily combative and bellicose.

    A little something for the fifth floor to consider going forward.

    – MrJM

  8. - City Zen - Thursday, Jun 17, 21 @ 10:56 am:

    I’m surprised CTU was OK with the timeline.

  9. - Frank talks - Thursday, Jun 17, 21 @ 11:06 am:

    How long was yesterday’s email to staff?

    Why, why, why, why, why ,why, why, why, why did that bill pass?

  10. - lake county democrat - Thursday, Jun 17, 21 @ 11:33 am:

    I’m for freeing the good that’s been taken hostage by the bad. There are lots of things that are good in theory but bad in execution. Apparently the only version of an elected school board that can pass the legislature is one that is structured for CTU control - sure anything can happen, but both CTU’s actions and lots of inductive examples of suburban races I’ve witnessed or have been told about by friends tell me that’s the case. Time will tell, but I’m genuinely fearful - not so much for the budget deficit (though I’m concerned about that too) but that the Boards will eventually join an effort to loosen the city’s residency requirement and divert money from magnet/charter schools, affecting the middle class base that has helped stabilize Chicago for decades.

    Time will tell, but if the governor were to veto this and say “send me a school board the size of New York City’s” I don’t think that’d be a crime to democracy. If that’s a deal breaker, well, how much then did the legislature really care about voters?

  11. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jun 17, 21 @ 11:35 am:

    === Apparently the only version of an elected school board that can pass the legislature is one that is structured for CTU control===

    They will have a full slate, doubtful that slate will equate total control.

  12. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Jun 17, 21 @ 11:36 am:

    ===well, how much then did the legislature really care about voters?===

    Enough to give all an elected school board?

  13. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Jun 17, 21 @ 11:37 am:

    ===but if the governor were to veto this and say ===

    Bruce, is that you?


  14. - Horseshoe Voter - Thursday, Jun 17, 21 @ 12:12 pm:

    Rachel Hinton again remembered to check for motions.

  15. - TKMH - Thursday, Jun 17, 21 @ 12:39 pm:

    As we saw in San Francisco this past year, an elected school board can do wonders in destroying the reputation of a great city with groan-inducing headlines and policies. Looking forward to seeing Jesse Sharkey’s handpicked candidates do the same.

  16. - Fly like an eagle - Thursday, Jun 17, 21 @ 2:31 pm:

    As we saw in Chicago a mayoral appointed school board can do wonders in destroying the reputation of a great city, for example letting Barbara Byrd Bennett hire her friends, the janitorial scandal, the sexual misconduct scandal, etc. It’s almost like these mayoral appointees were asleep at the wheel.

  17. - Last Bull Moose - Thursday, Jun 17, 21 @ 3:17 pm:

    Eliminate the requirement that CPS teachers live in Chicago. That will dilute union power as their members move out of the city.

  18. - TKMH - Thursday, Jun 17, 21 @ 3:23 pm:

    ==As we saw in Chicago a mayoral appointed school board can do wonders in destroying the reputation of a great city.==

    Are you under the assumption that elected officials are somehow more immune to corruption than appointed bureaucrats? Did you move here yesterday?

  19. - TKMH - Thursday, Jun 17, 21 @ 3:31 pm:

    Unrelated to the right wing hysteria over critical race theory, we’ve seen a wave of (elected) school boards attempt to “Harrison Bergeron” our educational system by abolishing gifted programs and eliminating entrance tests for magnet schools.

    In this very city, the teacher’s union seems more interested in talking about our foreign policy in Venezuela and Jeff Bezos than advancing productive education policy.

    I fear an elected school board, which filled with CTU-backed activists, will wreak havoc.

  20. - Eagle - Tuesday, Jun 22, 21 @ 7:12 am:


  21. - Fly like an eagle - Wednesday, Jun 23, 21 @ 10:17 am:

    “ Are you under the assumption that elected officials are somehow more immune to corruption than appointed bureaucrats? Did you move here yesterday?”
    No and no.
    I never said the Chicago public school board was corrupt. I said they were asleep at the wheel.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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