Chicago/ Politics & Govt
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Published on May 26, 2024
Chicago to Hold Inaugural School Board Elections This Fall, Transitioning to Hybrid Governance ModelSource: Google Street View

Big changes are around the corner for Chicago's education system as the city gears up for its first school board elections this fall. Chicago voters will for the first time have a say in electing some members of the Board of Education, transitioning from a fully mayor-appointed board to a hybrid model with 10 elected and 11 appointed positions. This historic shift, voted in by state legislators back in March, will see the board expanding from seven to 21 members, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The upcoming elections have caused a stir among local experts and politicians who are speculating on how the newly elected officials might quickly move to enact changes in the education policy landscape. However, evidence on whether elected school boards will positively affect student outcomes remains inconclusive, with Ohio State University professor Vladimir Kogan noting, “Very little is usually fundamentally at the end of the day about the kids and what’s good for student learning,” as per a statement obtained by the Chicago Tribune.

As reported by Chalkbeat, the process is set to kick off on a technical note, with candidates required to meet certain qualifications and collect at least 1,000 signatures to get on the ballot. The intricacies of this election process, including campaign finances and candidate disclosures, will be closely monitored with the public able to scrutinize who is backing whom through the Illinois State Board of Elections website or the Reform for Illinois’ Sunshine Database.

Despite the political posturing, grassroots engagement is evident as six candidates have already filed campaign finance paperwork within a day of the opening of the signature collection period. Yet, school board members will not receive compensation for their service, although some state lawmakers have pushed to allow local boards to decide on this matter. However, this bill has been stuck since last fall, not managing to make it past the Senate's Assignments committee, as Chalkbeat revealed. School board members, whether appointed or elected, will be required to undergo training in various pertinent areas of education law and ethics.

The shape of Chicago's education future is now in the hands of its voters, as the November elections will decide who will fill 10 of the accessible school board seats. This change represents a significant move towards greater public influence over local education policy, with the full measures of this democratic shift set to culminate in 2027, when all board members will be elected by the public.