All-elected Chicago school board gets a major boost in Springfield

Illinois Senate President Don Harmon today threw his support behind the idea of eventually electing all members of the Chicago Board of Education, a major move that appears to clear the way for final passage despite opposition from Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

In a statement, Harmon, who had been delaying action, called for both Lightfoot and the Chicago Teachers Union, which strongly backs an all-elected board, to sit down and work out a compromise.  

The compromise would be not over whether to have an elected board but over how long a transition should take from a temporary “hybrid” board, in which some members would be elected others appointed by the mayor, as is now the case, he said.

“I look forward to putting a plan to get us to a fully elected school board on the governor’s desk this session,” Harmon said in his statement. “In order to set this in motion, I have asked the sponsors of the key proposals to sit down and come up with a plan that will guide this transition to a new era of leadership at Chicago Public Schools.”

He added, “My recommendation is that these negotiations focus on starting with a fair, representative hybrid board composed of elected and appointed members that would ensure a reasonable and orderly transition to a fully elected school board.”

Lightfoot’s office did not have an immediate response, but I’m told Harmon earlier today informed the mayor’s staff of his decision

“This is an opportunity for the  mayor to save face and move forward and declare a victory,” said one source close to the matter.  That source confirmed that Harmon, as he seemed to suggest in an interview with WBEZ earlier today, will not block passage of an all-elected bill this legislative session if the mayor will not compromise.

A CTU-backed bill to elect all board members already has passed the House and is pending in the Senate, where it’s sponsored by Sen. Robert Martwick, D-Chicago. A different bill calling for a hybrid board with nine appointed and two elected members also is pending in the Senate. It’s sponsored by Sen. Kim Lightford, D-Maywood, but she’s indicated that she introduced the bill with the aim of starting serious negotiations.

The House previously passed elected-board bills in recent years. But the then-Senate President, John Cullerton, refused to call them for a vote.

Cullerton retired and was succeeded by Harmon after the November election. Springfield sources say Harmon’s been under increasing political pressure to allow the CTU bill to proceed, with most members of his Democratic caucus said to be in favor.

via Crain’s Chicago Business

April 30, 2021 at 04:26PM

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