As Mayor Johnson Weighs Board of Education Picks, Some Parents, Advocates Concerned About Lack of Engagement

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

As Mayor Brandon Johnson weighs his selections for Chicago’s Board of Education, some parents and education activists are calling for more inclusion in the process.

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An open letter this week signed by numerous education advocacy groups — including Access Living, Activate Chicago Parents, Families 4 Students & Teachers, Equip for Equality and Illinois Families for Public Schools, as well as a half-dozen local school council members from around the city — expressed concerns over what they feel has been a lack of engagement from Johnson’s administration with families and stakeholders over the next board appointees.

“This is an important moment for our district, not only because of the change in mayoral leadership; but because, with the election of ten board members in November 2024, the Chicago Board of Education will begin its transition from fully appointed to fully elected,” the advocates wrote in the June 14 letter.

In the letter— which can be read here — parents and advocates said the next wave of board members should have “direct lived experience” as current CPS families and alumni, as well as familiarity with “past and present harms perpetrated by the district.”

They also want appointees who have expertise in areas including early childhood education, bilingual education and special education, and know how to support unhoused, undocumented and LGBTQ+ students.

“We urge you to make appointments to the Board of Education now and for January 2025 with a vision toward creating a board composed of individuals with the collective knowledge, experience and expertise that are required to effectively tackle the challenges and address the issues facing our District,” the letter states.

The process of determining who will fill out the board is already underway.

Johnson last week said he and Deputy Mayor of Education Jennifer Johnson have begun reviewing current board members as well as other possible appointment candidates who “align with our vision.”

“As a Chicago Public Schools parent and former educator who fought for an elected representative school board, Mayor Johnson is a partner to many of these individuals and organizations seeking education justice,” a Johnson spokesperson said in an email Thursday. “He sees them, he hears them, and he will ensure that appointments to the Chicago Board of Education reflect the principles they value.”

The board – which has been under mayoral control since 1995 — will see its first elections late next year during a transition into a fully-elected board which will be complete by 2027.

Chicago will be divided into 10 separate electoral districts for those 2024 elections and into 20 districts for a second wave of elections in 2026. From January 2025 to January 2027, each district will be represented both by one elected member serving a four-year term and one appointed member serving a two-year term.

After those terms expire in January 2027, each district would be represented by one elected member. Another candidate would run at large in the 2026 elections to serve as board president.

State legislators are still determining how that map should be drawn.

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson[email protected] | (773) 509-5431

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