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Aldermen, community groups call again for elected school board

Chicago hasn’t had an elected school board since 1995 when the state put the mayor in charge of schools.

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Some Chicago community groups, teachers and aldermen are pushing for an elected school board for the city’s public schools.

Since 1995, the city’s mayor has had full authority to appoint members of the board.

In a press conference just before the Board of Education meeting Wednesday, Jawanza Malone said Chicago’s school board should no longer be appointed by the mayor.

“We are done having people make decisions for us who don’t care about us,” said Jawanza Malone, a member of Communities Organized for Democracy in Education, the coalition behind the effort.

But about an hour later, the appointed Board of Education held an election of sorts—reappointing David Vitale and Jesse Ruiz as president and vice president of the school board.

The vote was just procedural and happens every year according to board policy.

But CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said, “It wasn’t exactly the election we were looking for.”

Ten alderman have also taken up the cause. Last week, they asked the city council to put an election referendum on the ballot in their wards.

But city hall politics—and a technical filing violation—put a stop to that effort, angering some of the alderean.

“You cannot thwart democracy every time you don’t want to have a conversation about important issues in this city,” Ald. Scott Waguespack said at a press conference Wednesday morning.

In a statement, CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said there is enough politics in the school system and “what it doesn’t need is more.”

At the end of Wednesday’s board meeting, Vice President Jesse Ruiz said he understands the complaint, but added there’s no perfect model for the board.

“I never lose sight of the fact that I’m accountable to every citizen in Chicago regardless of the fact of whether I ran for the position or was appointed to the position,” Ruiz said.

The aldermen and advocates say they will pursue other strategies for getting an elected school board on the ballot.

A correction has been made to this story: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated how Chicago Board of Education members were chosen before the Illinois legislature gave the mayor of Chicago appointment control of the board in 1995. School reform rules in the late 1980s had given some nominating power to community groups, so they had some input into mayoral appointments to the school board.

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