Lawmakers out with new elected school board map after first draft prompts criticism over racial balance

SPRINGFIELD — Democratic lawmakers have released a second draft of the 20-district map for Chicago’s impending elected school board, after the first map was criticized for failing to maintain neighborhood cohesion and over-representing white voters.

For decades, Chicago’s Board of Education has consisted of seven members all appointed by the mayor, unlike most school systems whose boards are chosen by voters. But in 2021, state lawmakers passed a bill that will shift Chicago Public Schools’ oversight to a fully elected board of 20 members from 20 districts, plus a board president, by 2026. The legislature has until July 1 to finalize the shapes of the districts.

“The goal ultimately is to create an equitable map that allows communities to have a voice in the future of Chicago Public Schools,” state Rep. Ann Williams, who leads the House Democrats’ CPS Districting Working Group, told the Tribune. “We understand that we still have to comply with the constitutional requirements of mapmaking — which do create some challenges. But within those restraints and parameters, we feel confident that we really provided a voice for democracy.”

But some advocacy groups say they remain concerned about a lack of representation for Latino communities.

Kids First Chicago, a children and parents advocacy nonprofit, released a statement saying the new map is “a step in the right direction” but that, based on public feedback, “it is hard to look at this map and not feel that this continues to fall short.”

In the earlier map version, whites made up the largest group of voting-age residents in seven of the 20 proposed districts, while another seven districts had a plurality of Black voters, and the remaining six were majority-Latino.

This was panned by many community members for being not representative of CPS, whose student body is 47% Latino, 36% Black and 11% white.

The updated map proposal has seven majority-Latino and seven majority-Black districts and six majority-white districts.

Yet at a Senate hearing Thursday evening, Latino leaders expressed frustration that they were underrepresented and their communities were not kept intact. Chicago Ald. Nicole Lee, who represents the city’s first majority-Asian 11th Ward, asked for more time for member of the public to voice their concerns, including Asian Americans. There is only one district where more than 20% of the voting population is Asian American.

Lawmakers agreed that the districts could be more representative than they were in the first draft, if not exactly proportionate to the CPS student makeup. That’s complicated by the fact that the districts must be of equal population, yet white children are less likely to attend public schools.

“I feel that considering the time constraints and the constraints that we’re under with regard to the constitutional parameters that we’ve really worked hard to ensure that we heard those concerns and tried to draw the map in accordance with the community feedback,” Williams said.

She’s confident that they will make the July 1 deadline for when a map must be finalized.

With just a few days left in the session as the calendar currently stands, though, it’s unclear if the General Assembly plans to settle on the existing map or a different version before lawmakers adjourn or if they plan to come back to agree on the map at a later date.

Jessica Cañas, a community engagement manager at Kids First Chicago also took issue with the margin of the districts’ majorities. There is one district where the Latino majority over white voters is 1% and another where the Latino lead is less than 3%.

Kids First Chicago has submitted its own map proposal to lawmakers. While it is more representative of the CPS population, the map shows districts of significantly different sizes. Kids First Chicago says its map is within constitutional requirements, despite the state’s drafts having districts of much closer population size.

Advocates also say that noncitizens should be allowed to vote.

During a transition period, 10 members will be elected to the new Board of Education in 2024 and 10 members, plus the board president, appointed by new Mayor Brandon Johnson. Then in 2026, each of the 20 districts will elect its own board member, with the president elected citywide.

Lawmakers are still trying to sort out how to formulate a 10-district map for 2024, where one member would be appointed and one elected from each district.

Sen. Robert Martwick, who sponsored the elected school board proposal when it passed the Senate two years ago, said the committee is trying to determine “how we decide which districts are elected and which ones are appointed” in the first round of voting next year “so that we get an even, a fair and an equitable distribution throughout the city.”

Tribune’s Dan Petrella contributed.

Chi,Feeds,Chi Trib,City: Chicago

via Home – Chicago Tribune

May 18, 2023 at 07:32PM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s