Illinois House approves fully-elected Chicago school board

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot objected, but lawmakers voted to change its selection process.

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The Illinois statehouse has approved the creation of a fully-elected school board in the city of Chicago over the objections of Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

House Bill 2908 passed 70 to 41 and will soon land on the desk of Governor J.B. Pritzker, who has been vocal in his support of the legislation and will sign it.

Over the objections of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (above), the Illinois statehouse has approved the creation of a fully-elected school board in the city. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The new board will have 21 seats, including 11 mayoral appointees, which include the board president. Ten members will be elected by the people.

In The Chicago Sun-Times, House Rep. Kam Buckner called the passage of the bill a “down payment on democracy” and said it’s indicative of reform. Another Democratic Chicago lawmaker, Rep. Ann Williams, said the legislation will ensure that Chicago Public Schools work “the way the children of Chicago need it to.”

The city’s teachers union published a statement supporting the board’s creation, saying it “represents the will of the people, and after more than a quarter of a century, moves our district forward in providing democracy and voice to students and their families.”

Detractors have expressed concern about issues like campaign finance, which they note have not been addressed in the bill; supporters remind them it can be refined through an amendment process.

The first election for the Chicago School Board will take place in November 2024.

The Sun-Times report notes that “after two years, the seats of the board president and the 10 appointees would become elected ones in January 2027 through a November 2026 election. Those members would also serve four-year terms.”

The current process is that the mayor of Chicago appoints the board’s seven members without an approval process. The mayor will continue picking its board president, but its City Council will need to confirm the choice.

The Windy City will be divided into 10 districts for the 2024 elections, then expand to 20 districts for 2026. The map is going to be defined by next February.

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