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Chicago Is Getting An Elected School Board As Pritzker Signs Bill Lightfoot Had Fought

Chicago Public Schools will first go through a transition phase where it will be overseen by a mixed board, with all the members to be elected by 2027.

Governor JB Pritzker answers questions from the press as the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus discuss legislation that improves economic equity across Illinois at Kennedy-King College in Englewood on March 26, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — Chicago is officially getting an elected school board, a major blow to Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Gov. JB Pritzker signed the bill that OK’s the change Thursday, his office announced. Chicago Public Schools will first go through a transition phase where it will be overseen by a mixed elected and appointed school board, with all the members to be elected by 2027.

“An elected school board will help students and their families have a strong voice in important decisions about the education system in Chicago,” Pritzker said in a news release.

The governor signing the bill wasn’t a surprise, as he’d previously voiced his support for the measure. But it still marks a major defeat for Lightfoot, who had vehemently opposed the change despite saying she wanted an elected board during her campaign.

Under the current system, Chicago has a seven-member board, with all the members appointed by the mayor.

The bill expands the school board’s size to 21 members. An election will be held in November 2024 for 10 members of the board, with the mayor appointing another 10 and the board’s president for a two-year term.

All members of the board will have to run for election in 2026, meaning the board will be all-elected by 2027.

The same bill temporarily bans school closures, among other changes.

Lightfoot fought efforts to get the bill passed. This June, she said the bill lacked “guardrails” on the amount of money people could spend campaigning for a seat on the board and would prevent undocumented parents from serving. She said the city would negotiate with the state over those issues.

“It’s not a defeat for me. It’s absolutely not a defeat for me,” Lightfoot said then. “… This is about making sure that our children and our parents have a real seat at the table and that any change in governance is superior to what we have now.”

The Chicago Teachers Union, which has locked heads repeatedly with Lightfoot, praised the change in a tweet Thursday.

“Students, families and educators will now have the voice they have long been denied for a quarter of a century by failed mayoral control of our schools,” the teachers union wrote. “And Chicago will finally have an elected board accountable to the people our schools serve, as it should be.”

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