Mixed feelings about notion of an elected school board

While an attempt to place an advisory referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot that would probe whether voters preferred an elected city school board instead of one appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel was struck down due to a technicality.

Several aldermen who pushed for the measure said they will continue to move ahead on the issue to ensure their constituents voices are heard when it comes to education.

“Any group that has the authority to raise taxes should held responsible by the voters,” said Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) who was one of several aldermen exploring the possibility. “Chicago Public Schools needs to be held accountable.”

Chicago features the lone school district in the state that does not have elected board members. Instead, those individuals are appointed by the City Council.

“The people of Chicago should have the ability to have their voices heard,” said Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th). “There is an elected school board everywhere else except Chicago.”

The initiative was led by Ald. John Arena (45th) who desired to place the question on the ballot after receiving input from a number of residents who were concerned about the direction the board was headed.

Arena and the group of 10 aldermen were anticipating Ald. Joe Moore (49th) of the City Council’s Committee on Human Relations would move the issue forward, but Monday denied as a result of key paperwork being submitted past the July 19 at 10 a.m. deadline to the city clerk’s office.

“This issue is not dead,” Sawyer said.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said Tuesday that an elected school board would be “a disaster for the city” due the possibility of cronyism, nepotism and political agendas of elected officials getting in the way.

“That would not be a solution. People’s voices will not be heard than they already are,” Brizard said.

Chicago Teachers Union organizer Brandon Johnson said Brizard dismissing the idea of an elected school board is effectively ignoring the concerns of the people and an attack on all families, especially minorities.

“Forcing kids out of their neighborhood school districts is a disaster,” Johnson said. (An elected school board) might be a disaster for the wealthy elite that CPS represents. “This is a threat to the black middle class.”

“Too often outside political groups constantly lecture the black community about personal responsibility and our to raise our children,” he said. “But that same political structure prevents that from happening.”


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