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For Immediate Release: August 2, 2012
Contact: Valerie F. Leonard 773-521-3137 firstname.lastname@example.org
Five Reasons Chicago Public Schools Should Have an Elected School Board
There has been a lot of “back and forth” as to whether or not the Chicago Public Schools should have an elected school board. Some people who are opposed to the notion of an elected school board argue that Chicago has enough layers of bureaucracy and corruption, and we do not need to compound the situation by having yet another elected body. Others believe that we should have a combination of elected and appointed members. People who oppose this idea believe the board should be either all-elected or all appointed. Having a mixture would cause confusion and division based on whether the member is elected versus appointed. Currently, the school board is appointed by the Mayor of Chicago, and has five members. Prior to 1995, board appointments were subject to approval by the City Council. This changed when Mayor Daley went to the State Legislature to get Mayoral control of the Chicago Public Schools. Chicago is the only city in the State of Illinois that has this arrangement. The Chicago Public Schools has 465 schools with a total operating budget of over $5.7 billion dollars to run the entire system. Most schools have a local school council (LSC) to hire principals and oversee the budgets of the individual schools. The CPS board is charged with financial and programmatic oversight of the entire system, including approving policies, budgets and contracts. The issues confronting our public school system are complex, and cannot all be resolved by having an elected school board, in and of itself. Even so, I believe that having an elected school board is the best option for CPS to select board members at this time.
The Chicago Public School board members are appointed by the Mayor and not elected by the people. They answer to the Mayor and ignore the community.
2. Some members of the board voted to raise the CPS property taxes to the highest amounts allowed by the law. At the same time, they have lobbied to lower property taxes for themselves. Some North Lawndale residents have seen their property taxes increase at a faster rate than people from other parts of the city, in spite of the fact that property values are decreasing and many home owners are on fixed incomes.
3. North Lawndale is the target area for school closings, turnarounds and other educational experiments that can distract our students. Yet, there is not one person on the CPS board from the West Side. 4. Even though the board is made up of business people, Chicago Public Schools just proposed a budget that will spend all the cash reserves for next year. As a result, their credit score was lowered. CPS must now pay higher interest rates. The more money they spend on interest, the less money will be available for the classroom. 5. Last year, the City had over $1.2 billion in surplus from its TIF fund (money for economic development and job creation). About half of this money would have gone to Chicago Public Schools if it weren't put in the TIF fund. The current board refuses to push for reforms that would allow excess TIF funds to go back to the schools. Instead, the unused funds collect interest, and CPS raises taxes to cover their expenses. We need school board members who can feel our pain, have a genuine concern for our community and take action. In short, we need a school board elected by the people, for the people! How Should the Elected School Board Look? Ideally, the elected school board should have a good mix of people from around the City of Chicago. The board should include some people with experience managing large organizations or businesses, experience in law, and others with experience with Chicago Public Schools. There should also be slots for people who represent communities from each of the four-five major geographic areas of the City. The State Legislature should have a subject matter hearing to listen to ideas, and appoint a special bi-partisan task force to establish the best way of structuring the board to get diverse-yet effective representation through an elective process.
Sincerely, Valerie F. Leonard Co-Founder The Lawndale Alliance Phone: 773-521-3137 E-mail: email@example.com