Chicago will get an elected school board for the first time under a measure signed into law Thursday by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
The new law would phase out a seven-member board of mayoral appointees for a 21-member elected board in place by 2027, allowing Chicago to join the vast majority of American cities that already have an elected board.
The shift would start with the November 2024 election, with 10 elected members and 11 mayoral appointees, including board president. Two years later, voters would have say in all 21 races. The board president would be elected at large, while 20 others would represent districts determined by legislators.
“An elected school board will help students and their families have a strong voice in important decisions about the education system in Chicago,” Pritzker, a Democrat, said in a statement. “I applaud the members of the General Assembly for working together on behalf of their constituents to pass legislation that required compromise and thoughtful deliberation.
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Parents, unions and activists have fought for an elected panel for decades, saying their concerns haven't been heard by the appointed board. But the new law has faced criticism for the timeline and size of the board, which is triple that of the average board, according to a 2018 National School Boards Association survey.
Critics include Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who would see her power diminished if she's reelected. She has called the 21-member panel “unwieldly”
Either way, the road ahead will be complicated, with a politically-charged mapmaking process ahead and some lawmakers pushing legislation to allow people without legal permission to live in the U.S. a chance to vote in school board elections. Also, good government groups want campaign finance reform rules in place with urban school board races in Los Angeles and other places becoming increasingly expensive.