SPRINGFIELD — Lawmakers left the veto session Thursday in a stalemate over how members of the Chicago Board of Education should be elected next year.
Lawmakers have been focusing on the election of board members for Chicago Public Schools, after months of hearings and behind-the-scenes meetings about district maps that would be used in those elections.
Though they failed to reach a resolution during the waning days of the veto session, members of the Illinois House and Senate plan to continue their talks on the issue.
Divisions remain — including over how many members should be appointed versus elected next year — and the issue will likely be kicked to January when legislators return to Springfield.
After sparking a war of words over ethical provisions within an Illinois House plan, state Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, on Thursday introduced an amendment he said reflected compromises with the House. That came after meetings with state House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside.
Harmon’s plan still includes the election of all 20 board members by 2024. But instead of staggered terms, the new board members would be elected to two-year terms. In 2026, a non-partisan primary would be held in March, with the two top vote-getters advancing to the November election.
Harmon’s plan also includes increasing petition signatures from 250 to 500 signatures, which was in the House plan. The Illinois Senate cleared the plan 38-12.
On the Senate floor, Harmon called it “the best and most comprehensive proposal to date to bring an elected school board to Chicago, allowing it to join all the other school districts in the state of Illinois and having a school board elected by the people it serves.”
Harmon also emphasized that legislators have until April 1 to both finalize district maps, and come to an agreement on the election process. He joked that, “by Senate standards, we are years ahead of schedule by being months ahead of schedule.”
The Senate president also acknowledged the measure “is not a perfect bill.” But he called it “the right thing to do.”
“This is a damn good way to implement a long deferred effort to reach democracy in the city of Chicago,” Harmon said.
Prior to the Senate passage, the Illinois House cleared its own measure that offered further ethical provisions. A trailer bill from state Rep. Ann William, D-Chicago, trailer bill includes language from the Public Office Prohibited Activities Act per the Senate’s request, which in part ensures members cannot have a financial interest in a school contract and prohibits employees from being appointed or elected to the board.
The House plan still allows for 10 members to be elected, and 10 to be appointed by Mayor Brandon Johnson in 2024.