A coalition of Chicago public school advocates, including the Chicago Teachers Union, believe that the end of Mayor Richard Daley’s tenure should spell the end of one of the changes he ushered in: mayoral control of city schools.
But the large crop of candidates who are vying to become mayor of the city—including former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and former U.S. Senator Carol Mosely Braun—are cool to the idea of creating an elected school board which would then have power to choose the head of the 409,000-student school district.
In a letter addressed to “citizens of Chicago,” the coalition members say that parents have been shut out of decision-making by Daley, who has controlled the city schools since 1995. He selects both the chief executive officer for the school system, and the seven-member school board. Arne Duncan, the current secretary of education, was appointed as Chicago Schools CEO in 2001 and served until his appointment to federal office in 2009.
The coalition would like to see a 13-member board, of which seven would be parents.
And for 15 years, Chicago Public Schools has implemented a staggering number of reforms, from probation, to student retention, to school closings, charters and turnarounds and the wholesale firing of 1,300 educators this past summer. Many of these reforms have damaged our schools and our children—increased violence, increased teacher and student mobility and a general destabilization of neighborhood public schools. But one thing has remained constant for the past 15 years—citizens have had little to no voice in school policy.
The Chicago Tribune noted that the five mayoral candidates have split on the idea, with none embracing it wholeheartedly.
The coalition will have to convince state lawmakers to overhaul the law, but whomever becomes the next mayor would also have a big role in advancing such a proposal.
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.