Teachers union wants new, elected school board

December 29, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Many educators and community activists see this as a chance to change the current system and give a boost to school reform, which even the candidates agree has lost momentum.

When control of Chicago Public Schools was handed over to Mayor Daley in 1995, it was a historic shake-up in the world of public education.

A business model was implemented with the appointment of a CEO to head the district instead of a superintendent and school board members largely from the business sector.

Educators say some of the initial improvements have stalled, and that it's time for a change.

"The top down decisions made by non-educators have not shown significant improvement that the very people who destroyed it are now clamoring for," said Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.

"We are proposing that we want a representative elected school board that will bring the public back to public education," said Jitu Brown of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization.

These educators and activists say instead of seven appointed board members, they want to see implemented a 13 member school board that would be geographically representative of the city.

They say the issue of taking the control of the district out of the hands of one person will influence how they vote for the next mayor.

On Wednesday the candidates weighed in, some in support of the union's plan.

"I don't think there is any particular reason for the schools to be controlled by the mayors office, so I, full square in support of having an elected school board," said mayoral candidate Danny Davis.

If we're going to have an elected school board, it is important that we move toward insuring public financing of those campaigns in order to level the playing field," said mayoral candidate Miguel del Valle.

But candidate Gery Chico, who was appointed school board president by Mayor Daley says the system has worked and should remain as is.

"I think it would be a bad precedent to have an elected school board where we have 13 new politicians elected, perhaps representing special interests," Chico said.

Carol Mosely Braun's campaign stated that she is also opposed to an elected school board.

Rahm Emanuel's campaign stated that he does not believe the school board selection should be politicized, but says teachers must be represented on the school board and would ensure that they were if elected mayor.

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