LINCOLN PARK — A panel of education experts called for Chicago to implement an elected — or at least hybrid — Board of Education at a public forum Wednesday night.
The panelists slammed the current, mayoral-appointed board for shifting resources away from neighborhood schools and expanding charter schools, among other concerns.
A mayor-appointed board doesn't have enough transparency and accountability, which has led to problems for Chicago Public Schools, panelists argued. During a Q&A portion of the forum, attendees in a largely supportive crowd accused Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Board of Education of "devastating" cuts and shifting funding to charter schools.
"I am shocked at the lack of transparency that this board and the mayor has. They are not accountable," said attendee Mary Brown. "The mayor is more interested in union-busting than he is in educating children and providing [schools] with what they need to educate children."
Panelists and attendees argued that their concerns could be better addressed by an elected school board, which the Chicago Teachers Union supports and which Chicagoans endorsed overwhelmingly in a non-binding vote in February. The members of that board would be accountable to the people who elected them, said Rep. Ann Williams (D-11th), who hosted the forum.
Do you think Chicago should have an elected school board? Forum with @RepAnnWilliams is covering that tonight.— Kelly Bauer (@BauerJournalism) November 12, 2015
Panelist and former CPS CEO Paul Vallas said it would be more effective to have a hybrid board that has elected and appointed officials so the mayor would have "skin in the game." That would ensure the Board of Education had members who gave the mayor a "stake" in the board, but would also mean that not all members were beholden to the mayor, Vallas said.
Eric Gutstein, a professor of math education at UIC, pushed for an all-elected board, saying Chicago's mayor would have "skin in the game" even if he or she weren't appointing members to the Board of Education. There's no conclusive evidence schools run more efficiently when the board has appointed members, Gutstein said.
An elected board is a "mandatory move we have to take," Gutstein said.
And other panelists, like Raise Your Hand co-founder Wendy Katten, argued for an elected board, saying she wants to be able to vote people out of the board if necessary. At the same time, Katten slammed the board and charter schools for taking away funding from neighborhood schools.
"Our district schools are not getting what they need," Katten said. The district has cut off funding and closed schools based on "narrow metrics," she said: "What we have here is a system that has this very, you know, rating and opening and closing as if our schools are pop-up stores."
Vallas pushed for further financial oversight of the Board of Ed, saying it was a needed "check and balance" that would improve CPS' financial outlook.
Katten pushed for attendees, parents and teachers to stay up to date on the push for an elected board. They should know what bills are being worked on, she said.
"You have to really be involved these days," Katten said.
Check out a play by play of the meeting:
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