CHICAGO (CBS) — As the Illinois House prepares to return to Springfield this week to vote on legislation that would create a fully elected school board for the Chicago Public Schools by 2027, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said lawmakers should hold off on a final vote until they address what she sees as significant flaws in the bill.
Earlier this month, the Illinois Senate advanced legislation that would transition CPS from a fully-appointed school board to a fully-elected school board by 2027. House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch has said he expects the legislation to pass and go to Gov. JB Pritzker, who has voiced support for an elected board.READ MORE: Mars Wrigley Says It Will Move Most Operations Out Of Its Plant On Chicago's West Side Over Next 2 Years
However, Lightfoot opposes the legislation, calling it “ill-constructed,” and she urged the House not to vote on the plan until lawmakers address her concerns.
“Why not wait? If we know that the bill itself is deeply flawed, why are we rushing to ratify?” Lightfoot said.
The legislation would create a 21-member school board starting in 2025, starting with a hybrid board including 10 members elected in November 2024, and 11 members appointed by the mayor, including the board’s president. The board would then become fully elected in 2027, with voters electing 11 members, including the president in November 2026.
However, Lightfoot has been outspoken in her criticism of the legislation – in particular, the size of the board, which she calls unwieldy; the lack of campaign spending limits for the elected board seats; and the fact the legislation as it stands would require people to be citizens to either serve on the board or vote for board members.
Lightfoot said that would disenfranchise thousands of CPS parents, as many students and parents in the district are not citizens.
“We fought hard years ago to make sure that we open up the process of CPS trough the [local school councils] to all parents, not just American citizens. We have roughly 20% of our students who are undocumented English learners, and yet their parents – and them by extension – will not be able to have any impact on the membership of the board,” she said.READ MORE: Uber Driver Shot On Eisenhower Expressway
Although an Illinois Senate committee on Friday is expected to vote on a so-called “trailer bill” that would allow non-citizens to vote in Chicago school board elections, Lightfoot called that “too little, too late,” saying it only proves the elected school board plan lawmakers are considering needs to be fixed.
“If you know that the bill is flawed, wait. Fix it. Vote on a bill that doesn’t send a message to this community that is so vital to the lifeblood of Chicago that we’re going to disenfranchise you by putting in citizenship requirements,”
The mayor also said, without campaign finance limits, she fears school board races would prove to be too expensive for most parents to run for the board.
“We know from the experience of Los Angeles that a single seat in that city was a million-dollar race. That doesn’t make any sense,” she said.
Lightfoot also has repeatedly said a 21-member board is too large to be effective, claiming it would be more than twice as large as the next-largest school board in Illinois.
She also questioned how school board districts would be drawn up, saying if districts are based solely on the city’s overall population, the North Side could end up over-represented, since that’s where the city is seeing population growth, not on the South and West Sides, where most CPS students live.
“There is a risk that the way this legislation has been set up is that we will over-represent one are of the city, when you think about what the actual population is of CPS, which is supermajority Black and Brown,” Lightfoot said.MORE NEWS: Chicago White Sox Plan To Take Action After CBS 2 Investigators Expose Parking Scam Outside Sports Venues: Fans Getting Ripped Off By Conmen, Then Hit With Parking Tickets
The legislation also includes a moratorium on school closings and consolidations until the new hybrid board is in place in 2025, which Lightfoot has called a “mistake.”