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Chicago Voters Demanded An Elected School Board, But They're Not Getting It

By Heather Cherone | January 11, 2017 2:53pm
 Elected School Board protest.
Elected School Board protest.
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Chicago Teachers Union/CTUNet

CHICAGO — Efforts to change state law and require that Chicagoans be represented by an elected — not appointed — school board, are back at square one.

Although a bill that would have ended Mayor Rahm Emanuel's control of the Chicago Board of Education passed the Illinois House in March on a 110-4 vote, the measure never came to a vote in the Illinois Senate.

With the 100th Illinois General Assembly sworn in Wednesday, state Rep. Robert Martwick (D-Jefferson Park) vowed to reintroduce the bill "immediately" and begin working to bring it to a vote in the Senate.

"I will be more proactive this session," Martwick said, while waiting to take the oath of office. "I will make sure my colleagues in the Senate are well-informed about this issue."

In 2015, Chicago overwhelmingly voted for a nonbinding referendum pushed by leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union, who called the absence of an elected School Board the "most pressing civil rights issue" in Chicago.

Martwick has said the lack of an elected School Board has "eliminated democracy in Chicago."

Martwick said Wednesday he was confident the measure would pass the Illinois House and Senate — if it comes to a vote.

In November, Chicago Public Schools officials testified against the bill at a Senate hearing

The bill must be signed into law by Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, who said in September that he opposed efforts to overturn the 1995 law giving Chicago's mayor control of the school district.

During his 2015 re-election campaign for mayor, Emanuel opposed the push for an elected School Board, saying since local school councils are picked by voters, Chicagoans' voices are heard.