Illinois lawmakers are considering legislation that would create a task force to evaluate whether the Chicago Public Schools should have an elected school board like every other district in the state.
State Rep. LaShawn Ford (8th), the chief sponsor on the bill, believes a task force is necessary to bring everyone to the table to discuss such a major change.
"We don't just want to jump into anything. We should have a task force assess it to see if it's working or not," Ford said.
The Chicago Board of Education is the only appointed school board out of Illinois' 868 school districts. CPS has had an appointed board since 1995. That year, state lawmakers approved the Chicago School Reform Amendatory Act, giving then-Mayor Richard M. Daley full control over selecting school board members. It's remained this way ever since, with Mayor Rahm Emanuel now appointing the seven-member board.
The people of Chicago, however, should have a representative board, insists state Rep. Monique Davis (27th), one of the five sponsors of House Bill 1152.
"The board has no allegiance to the people, it's only accountable to the mayor," Davis said.
Chicagoans, she added, want those overseeing the nation's third-largest school district to understand what's going on in their communities and schools.
While in Springfield last week, Laura Farr, CPS's legislative liaison, told lawmakers that CPS does not necessarily oppose the task force. There are, however, certain aspects of the bill CPS would like reworded, Farr said at a Feb. 26, legislative hearing. CPS is willing to speak with Rep. Ford to discuss these changes, Farr said at the hearing, though she declined to speak with AustinTalks.
But Ford believes CPS will oppose the task force no matter what.
"But it's important for them to come to the table and explain their opposition," Ford said. "This task force will bring all the advocates, for and against an elected board, to the table."
Brandon Johnson, deputy political director for the Chicago Teachers Union, supports creating the task force, saying it's unfair that Chicagoans can't elect their own public school board like residents in other parts of the state.
A rally in Springfield on Feb. 27, attracted dozens of supporters for Ford's bill; at least 30 supporters driving down from Chicago.
"The rally was entirely put together by community members and organizations — this shows how dedicated they are to this change," Johnson said.
The House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee is scheduled to deliberate on the bill this month.