CHICAGO (CBS) — A coalition of Chicago parents, activists, and teachers said Monday it has enough signatures to get the idea of an elected school board for Chicago Public Schools on the ballot in November.
The group calls itself Communities Organized for Democracy in Education (CODE), and it presented 10,000 signatures to the Chicago Board of Elections on Monday, supporting an advisory referendum in November on the elected board issue.
CODE spokesman Jitu Brown termed the current appointed Chicago Baord of Education an experiment that failed to improve Chicago schools.
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The group claimed the current board, appointed by the mayor, answers to the interests of downtown financiers, rather than Chicago parents. They said the present board has been ill-serving pupils, by closing traditional public schools and promoting charter schools.
University of Illinois at Chicago education professor Pauline Lipman joined the activists in seeking to do away with the appointed board and establish a new school board elected by the voters.
“What we know is that the appointed boards that we have in Chicago and across the country have made no improvement in education,” Lipman said.
CODE spokeswoman Tonya Payne rejected the possibility that an elected school board would politicize the city’s education efforts.
“I can’t imagine a school board that is more political than the one that we have now,” she said.
Organizers said they have enough signatures to get the referendum on the ballot in 204 precincts in 26 wards of Chicago. They said it’s a grassroots way to get around the City Council’s ability to keep the idea off the ballot.
According to various news reports, Ald. Joe Moore (49th) has been criticized by some fellow aldermen for blocking the Human relations Committee which he chairs from voting on similar advisory referendums in 10 wards, for missing a filing deadline by three minutes.
While a Chicago Teachers Union representative participated in the group’s rally at Board of Elections headquarters at 69 W. Washington St., organizers said their petition drive is neither driven, nor financed by the union.
Even if approved by voters, an advisory referendum would carry no legal weight to force establishing an elected school board in Chicago.
Only the Illinois General Assembly has the power to force a switch to an elected school board, although an advisory referendum could provide some political impetus to convince lawmakers to make the change.