Parents, community pressure lawmakers for elected Chicago School Board

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Some parents and community leaders are putting pressure on Illinois legislators to let voters elect the Chicago School Board. (WLS)

Some parents and community leaders are putting pressure on Illinois legislators to let voters elect the Chicago School Board. Those who want the board to be elected suspect political shenanigans have stalled a bill in Springfield, so they took their protest to a Gold Coast business owned by Illinois Senate President John Cullerton.

Elected school board proponents marched outside the Tavern of Rush restaurant, according to Jitu Brown, "Because Senator John Cullerton is part owner of this business. He's the Senate President."

Cullerton's Senate has not advanced the elected school board bill that passed the Illinois House by an overwhelming 110 to four margin in response to wide repeated support from Chicago voters.

"We've had two referendums where 90 percent of Chicago said they wanted an elected representative school board and their inaction is intolerable," says Brown.

A Cullerton spokesperson released a written statement saying, "The Senate President's top priority has been making sure Chicago and other schools can open and avoiding massive layoffs of teachers and neighborhood school closings."

Political consultant Maze Jackson suspects Cullerton has stalled the bill intentionally in deference to his number one North Side constituent, Rahm Emanuel.

"Who is the biggest opponent to an elected school board? Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Why? It takes away a tremendous amount of his power," Jackson says.

Emanuel would not answer when asked if he'd lobbied Cullerton against the elected school board bill.

"My time, where I'm focused, is on education," Emanuel said at an event Wednesday.

It's not unusual for one Democratic-controlled chamber to pass a bill to gain political favor for its members, knowing the measure won't have a chance in the other chamber. Earlier this year, the Senate passed a measure raising the minimum wage that was never called in the House.

"The other chamber can just be mute. They can say 'I never had an opportunity to vote on it,'" Jackson says.

The demonstrators outside Tavern on Rush suspect Springfield lawmakers are playing the same political game.

"That's why we're going to put public pressure on them. They're not going to be able to do this in the dark," Brown says.

An Illinois Senate spokesman said the elected school board bill has been assigned to South Side Senator Kwame Raoul, who wants to hold hearings on the measures. Proponents say they don't need any more hearings; they want a vote as soon as possible.

Related Topics:
politicschicago public schoolsschool boardgeneral assemblyrahm emanuelChicago - Gold CoastSpringfield
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