By Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer; CBS 2’s Mugo Odigwe contributed to this report
CHICAGO (CBS) — A day after the Illinois Senate passed legislation to create a fully elected Chicago school board by 2027 over her objections, Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday vowed to work with the Illinois House to address concerns she believes state senators ignored.READ MORE: Mayor Lori Lightfoot Backs Declaring Juneteenth An Official City Holiday Starting Next Year
“There’s a lot more work that’s going to be done before this … any kind of bill becomes law,” she said. “We’re going to keep our fight where it should be, which is making sure that our children are heard, that their educational futures are secured, and that parents have a seat at the table. And why that is so hard for people to understand, why that sense of urgency around those core values is something that some folks in Springfield don’t get, I don’t know. But there has to be accountability for ignoring the people. And it’s interesting that this was supposed to be about democracy, but what happened in Springfield had nothing to do with democracy, but democracy – mark my word – will prevail.”
The elected school board proposal advanced by the Illinois Senate on Tuesday now goes back to the Illinois House for a vote before it can go to the governor. The House overwhelmingly approved an earlier plan to more quickly move to a fully elected school board, and Gov. JB Pritzker has said he supports an elected school board in Chicago.
Lightfoot has expressed concerns about the proposed size of the 21-member board, calling it unwieldy, and has also said she’s worried about the lack of limits on campaign spending for board seats.
“We know from the example of California, Los Angeles, one race was a million-dollar race. We don’t need that here in Chicago,”
She has also said any elected school board legislation should include allowing undocumented CPS parents to vote in school board elections, which the bill passed by the Senate does not allow for.
“So we have to get back to the table in a concerted effort to listen to each other. We’re not always going to agree on every point, but it’s critically important that there is a negotiated resolution that puts our children and our parents first, and I do not believe what came out of the Senate the other day does any of those things,” she said.
The Senate voted 36-15 on Tuesday to approve legislation that would create a 21-member school board starting in 2025. The shift to an elected school board would begin with a hybrid board; including 10 members elected in November 2024, and 11 members appointed by the mayor, including the board’s president.
The elected members would serve four-year terms, while the 11 appointed members would serve two-year terms.
The board would then become fully elected in 2027, with the remaining 10 members and board president elected to four-year terms in November 2026.
The fully elected board would consist of 20 members elected from districts across the city, and a board president elected at-large across the entire city. The 21-member board would elect a vice president from within its members.READ MORE: Child Tax Credit: How Much Will Your Monthly Check Be?
The current board of seven members appointed by the mayor would be abolished in 2025 when the new hybrid board would be installed. Chicago Public Schools is the only school district in Illinois without an elected school board.
Lightfoot supported a fully elected board when she ran for mayor in 2019, but now opposes it in favor of a hybrid board where she would maintain some control over who is appointed.
On Wednesday, the mayor accused the Illinois Senate not only of ignoring her own concerns about the proposal, but concerns she claims many CPS parents have.
“The people who are going to be most impacted by the change in governance are our students and our parents, and what I’ve heard since over the last week, and since the actions taken by the Senate yesterday, is that parents and students don’t feel like they were heard. They don’t feel like they were listened to, and that is never a good thing,” Lightfoot said. “We can’t talk about a historic change in governance that doesn’t give parents an opportunity to sit at the table.”
Pointing specifically to a provision in the legislation that would impose a moratorium on school closings, consolidations, or phase-outs until the hybrid board is in place in 2025, Lightfoot said, “it’s a mistake that we would foreclose parents’ ability to come together with a plan and offer up consolidation or some other reshaping of schools.”
The mayor said some parents in North Lawndale have been trying to consolidate three schools in the community into one new school focusing on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. She claimed the moratorium on school closings included in the elected school board bill would prevent that from happening, and “that’s a mistake.”
Lightfoot also said she is worried the current elected school board plan could affect the district’s ability to recruit a new CEO. Current CPS chief Janice Jackson is stepping down at the end of June, and her two top deputies also are resigning.
“We’ll see what the final actual bill looks like. It could have an impact, and it could have a negative impact if a CEO doesn’t believe that he or she is actually going to have the ability to make a meaningful difference in the quality of education and the lives of our children,” Lightfoot said. “We’ve made that argument over and over again. So I think that’s something that clearly fell on way too many deaf ears, but we’re not going to stop speaking the truth about what we need to focus on.”
The Chicago Teachers Union applauded the Senate’s vote in favor of a fully elected school board in Chicago.
“This vote is a victory for the people, those who have fought tirelessly for more than a decade to establish trust and stability in district leadership, and who continue fighting for the schools our students deserve,” union officials said in a statement.MORE NEWS: Decision Delayed Again On Mental Health Treatment In Jail For Serial Stowaway Marilyn Hartman
The Illinois House adjourned early Tuesday and has not yet set a date to return to Springfield to consider the school board legislation.