Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is releasing her education platform as part of her bid to become Chicago’s next mayor.
The Democrat, who is a former teacher, told WBEZ Tuesday she wants an elected school board in place by the 2023 municipal elections, and a freeze on school closings and new charter schools until that board is sworn in.
Chicago’s mayor has had control of the city’s public schools since 1995. Preckwinkle’s plan would require a change in state law, but it’s one that Mayors Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel have refused to push for.
If Preckwinkle won that change from Springfield, she would keep mayoral control during her first term, but relinquish it for her successor — or for her second term.
Preckwinkle said she supports proposed state legislation that would create 15 districts from which Chicago voters would elect school board members.
“Not only do we have to pass it, but we have to create the districts and then educate people about the opportunity that’s provided by a representative school board,” Preckwinkle said.
Other components of Preckwinkle’s education platform include:
- Supporting a progressive income tax to better fund public schools. Incoming Democratic Gov.-elect JB Pritzker also supports moving Illinois from a flat to a graduated income tax, though that would require a state constitutional amendment which could take at least two years to implement.
- Not skipping teacher pension payments. Chicago Public Schools didn’t pay anything into its teachers retirement fund for nearly a decade, which was a $2 billion financial blow to Chicago teacher pensions.
- Adding more support staff to neighborhood schools, including librarians, nurses, social workers, and teacher aides. Preckwinkle did not offer specific numbers on exactly how many new positions she wants to create.
- A freeze on new school construction until CPS completes a review of its current needs. Emanuel implemented a new school construction tax levy during his time in office. With little public input, he put in motion a $1 billion dollar school construction plan, despite rapidly declining enrollment. Preckwinkle would hold control over that levy, but when asked about it, she said: “We need to focus on how we can best use the facilities we already have.”
- An aggressive effort to repurpose dozens of vacant school buildings on the South and West sides. Emanuel closed a record 50 public schools in 2013, and created a task force to help district leaders off load 40-some empty buildings. A WBEZ analysis found that most of those schools put up for sale, still remain empty.
Preckwinkle’s education plan embedded below.
Becky Vevea covers city politics for WBEZ. Follow her @beckyvevea.