Chicago Navigates School Board Elections: Senate President Supports Mayor's Partially Elected Plan Amid CTU Influence Debate

Chicago Navigates School Board Elections: Senate President Supports Mayor's Partially Elected Plan Amid CTU Influence DebateSource: Google Street View
Jo Marquez
Published on February 12, 2024

Chicago finds itself in the midst of political maneuvering as Illinois Senate President Don Harmon has filed legislation to elect just 10 of the 21 Chicago Public Schools board members this November, in line with Mayor Brandon Johnson's proposal. As ABC7 Chicago reports, after an unresolved debate over election timelines, the push from Johnson evidently determined the course, with the mayor backing a plan initially supported by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), his former employer.

Despite having previously championed a fully elected board, the CTU now seems to embrace the hybrid approach, allowing the mayor to appoint the remaining 11 members. This support comes despite the criticism from sources like the Illinois Policy Institute, which accuses the CTU of shifting its stance on community empowerment to conveniently align with its interests of maintaining influence within the school system.

The legislation, with its new ethics provisions, seeks to cement the structure of the school board, with the first elected members to serve four-year terms. Meanwhile, debates around the transition to a fully elected board continue, reflecting a broader conversation about democracy and governance in education. "I appreciate Mayor Johnson's clear direction as to his vision for an elected, representative school board for Chicago," Harmon said, confirming his cooperation with the mayor's vision.

Underpinning these developments are allegations that the CTU's agenda is power-driven, aiming to vastly increase its influence within CPS. The Illinois Policy Institute points to the costly 2019-2024 teachers union contract and CTU's history of strikes as evidence of their efforts to extend control rather than prioritize student welfare or community input.

The implications of the proposed board composition extend beyond the immediate political landscape, touching on broader issues of school choice and community involvement in education. Critics argue that the current trajectory favors the CTU's monopoly and diminishes the possibilities for progress in Chicago's schools, questioning the level of genuine commitment to democracy and educational outcomes for kids and families in Chicago.