A bill that would allow Chicago to have an elected school board, replacing Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s appointed School Board, has been overwhelmingly approved by the Illinois House in an unexpected show of bipartisanship.
The bill cleared the House by a vote of 110-4 and has been sent to the Illinois Senate.
Chicago is currently the only municipality in Illinois without an elected school board. In last year's city election, voters overwhelmingly supported having an elected school board.
If the bill passes, the city could see its first school board election during the general primary in 2018.
"We are on the verge of ending this horrific experiment that has led to the closure of over 100 public neighborhood schools, the proliferation of privately control charter schools, the layoffs of experienced teachers of color, and the disinvestment in our children’s education," Katelyn Johnson, executive director of Action Now said in a statement. "The fight for democracy within our schools will not end. We are determined to make Chicago’s Board of Education democratic and accountable to the parents and children of this city.”
"CPS students have made record academic progress in recent years, and now is not the time to jeopardize their futures by injecting politics into our schools," CPS Spokesperson Emily Bittner said in a statement. "The real solution to CPS’ challenges is fixing the state’s blatantly unequal education funding system that provides less than $3 to Chicago children for every $4 provided to children elsewhere and shortchanges low income kids from Decatur to Taylorville to Aurora to Elgin to East Moline."
The move has been increasingly discussed since Republican lawmakers proposed a state takeover of Chicago Public Schools, which could also result in an elected school board. The legislation, which aimed to give the state control over CPS, would allow the State Board of Education to remove the current Emanuel-appointed Chicago Board of Education and establish an independent authority to run the district until it is financially stable.
CPS is currently being run by CEO Forrest Claypool, who was named to the role by Emanuel after former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett resigned amid a federal probe into an alleged kickback scheme.