Chicago’s next mayor will oversee Chicago Public Schools during what is expected to be a transformative period.
Whether Brandon Johnson or Paul Vallas wins the runoff mayoral election on April 4, the next mayor will face a number of education hurdles, including the transition to an elected school board, a new teachers union contract, securing school funding and the end of a moratorium on school closures.
The moratorium is set to expire in 2025. CPS enrollment has been on the decline over the past decade as the number of students fell by more than 80,000.
Charles Tocci, assistant professor of education at Loyola University Chicago, said he worries about closures as the first line of approach to address the issue.
“There is a long history of mistrust and harm between CPS and many of the communities across the city, especially on the South and West Side, especially our Black communities,” Tocci said. “It really has to be a strategy of investment.”
Next year, the Chicago Board of Education will start transitioning to a hybrid model of elected and appointed members, before fully becoming an elected body by 2027.
Elaine Allensworth, executive director of the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research, said an elected school board makes it even more vital that there is access to high quality evidence and data about what is happening at schools, for both the voting public and those who are on the board.
“We’ll probably have many different political perspectives in our school board,” Allensworth said. “If we’re going to have productive conflict, productive conversations, we need to make sure that people are all operating from the same understanding of what’s happening in the schools and not hearsay and assumptions.”