Calling Local School Councils “a profound experiment in democracy,” education experts have stepped up their recruitment efforts, urging parents and community members to declare their candidacy before the March 17 deadline.

Officials said they hope to counter the misconception that the number of council candidates has been dwindling during the past decade. Donald Moore, executive director of Designs for Change, a nationwide educational research and reform organization, said, “The danger is that the Local School Council will have a drop in candidates at the very time research is showing the power and effect that councils and individuals can make.”

Local School Council elections take place April 19 and 20. Since 1989, all non-charter Chicago schools have been required to install local school councils, whose primary function is to select a school principal and approve the school budget. A typical LSC has six parents, two community members who are not parents of students at the school, two teachers, the high school principal and a student representative.

A study analyzing elementary school achievement in Chicago from 1990 to 2005 reported local school councils among five essential factors critical for student learning. Despite efforts in recent years, the number of candidates has consistently hovered in the 6,000- 7,000 range. That means one or two candidates generally file for each LSC seat.

James Deanes, school and community relations officer for Chicago Public Schools, said when LSCs work at their very best they can have a positive influence on a learning environment.

“I would include LSCs in a successful formula because there are [many] stakeholders working for the same goal,” Deanes said.