Whether you’re an insider who follows all education-related developments or simply have a kid in the system, it’s likely you’ve heard a lot about an elected school board over the years — from both advocates and opponents.
For this exercise, though, let’s focus on Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who has landed on both sides of the issue over the years.
As a mayoral candidate, Lightfoot vowed to support efforts to create a fully elected school board for Chicago Public Schools. That was part of her core education platform on which she promised to push for equitable fixes to an inequitable system.
As mayor, her thoughts evolved. Lightfoot said she would only back a partially elected school board, wanting the mayor to retain the ability to appoint a majority of seats, including the president. She said the buck should stop at City Hall for the district’s successes and failures, and the mayor should be held accountable should the district not falter. With an elected board, particularly the one with 21 members that Chicago is getting in a few years, accountability is too spread out to be meaningful, she said. Lightfoot fought hard against the bill that ultimately passed last year.
Amy Rome, a member of the seven-seat board that Lightfoot appointed shortly after she took office in 2019, stepped down last August. In that time, there has been no replacement and little to no public indication that Lightfoot has even neared filling the vacancy. That has left her critics wondering: After arguing it should be the mayor’s responsibility to call the shots for the school board, why hasn’t Lightfoot shown urgency to fill this opening? Unfilled vacancies have been a theme of Lightfoot’s administration, but she only has a year left in her term after all, and this could be one of her last chances to have this type of say in the makeup of the school board.
Ald. Michael Scott (24th), chairman of the City Council Education and Child Development Committee, said he has spoken to Lightfoot about the vacancy and knows her office understands the urgency and has been searching for a replacement.
While it’s unlikely the board has struggled to conduct its work over the past nine months with one member missing, there are two more vacancies expected in the coming months. And with four members, the school board would certainly cease to properly function.
That’s an issue to keep an eye on leading up to the summer, and we’ll be following any developments. You should follow along with us at the Sun-Times education homepage
, where you’ll find all our latest stories. Our top picks from the past week are below.
Until next week,
Nader Issa, Sun-Times education reporter
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