CHICAGO — With the filing deadline just two weeks away, fewer than 800 candidates have thrown their hat into the ring for Chicago Public Schools' upcoming Local School Council elections.
To date, 769 candidates have turned in the required paperwork, according to CPS spokeswoman Jamila Johnson.
There are approximately 6,000 LSC seats up for grabs in what's been termed the largest municipal election in the U.S.
The district has been "working aggressively" to inform parents and community members about the opportunity and deadlines, Johnson said via email, citing community rallies, online and grassroots outreach, and ads on CTA buses and billboards and in community newspapers.
"We are confident that this outreach will cause the numbers to steadily increase before the deadline," she said.
Aldermen including Deb Mell (33rd) have spread the word with "serve your school" messages in their weekly newsletters to constituents. Calls for candidates have also been posted to the Facebook pages of organizations such as Raise Your Hand.
In 2012, CPS faced a similar dearth of LSC hopefuls. Just two days before the filing deadline, fewer than 2,000 candidates had stepped forward, prompting a coalition of community groups to petition then CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard for a filing extension that was ultimately granted.
The lack of candidates stands in stark contrast to the 17,256 Chicagoans who ran in 1989's first-ever LSC elections. More than 300,000 people turned out to cast ballots.
Local School Councils were created by the Chicago School Reform Act of 1988 as a way to give parents and community members greater input into the running of schools.
Members' major responsibilities include approving the use of school funds, hiring and evaluating the school's principal, and developing and monitoring the annual school improvement plan.
In 2013, a number of LSCs lodged objections to CPS budget cuts and formed a coalition calling on the return of Tax Increment Financing dollars to the schools. In 2012, scores of LSCs were pressed into action to replace principals following a significant exodus of administrators, a sizeable number of whom retired in advance of a pension rule change.
LSC members serve two-year terms, beginning July 1. LSCs consist of six parent representatives, two community representatives, two teacher reps, one non-teacher staff member and the school's principal. High school LSCs also have a student representative.
Parent reps, which includes legal guardians, are required to have a child currently enrolled at the school. Community reps must reside within the school's attendance boundaries. Relatives of the principal and employees of the school board are ineligible to run.
Filing for candidacy is relatively simple. Interested individuals need to provide two pieces of identification and fill out three forms: a candidate nomination form (essentially name and address), a criminal conviction form and a telephone number disclosure form.
Forms must be filed in person by either the candidate or their representative. Deadlines are Feb. 19 if filing at the Office of LSC Relations, 125 S. Clark St., Suite 502, or Feb. 26 if filing at the school where the candidate intends to serve.
LSC elections are scheduled for April 7, with polls open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.