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A broad coalition of community, faith and labor organizations representing Chicago Public Schools parents and neighborhood stakeholders in every area of Chicago have aligned to put their collective weight behind State Rep. Delia Ramirez’s HB2908 and Sen. Robert Martwick’s SB2497. These bills would create a fully elected and representative school board for Chicago Public Schools. The text of their letter to the Illinois General Assembly:

To the members of the Illinois House of Representatives and Senate,

We are a coalition of grassroots community organizations made up of CPS parents and other stakeholders fully invested in the mission of public education in Chicago. We believe that now is the time for Chicago’s entire school board to be democratically elected.

It is no coincidence that our city, in which 89% of public school students are children of color, has an appointed school board. We believe this speaks of decades-long paternalism and racism. Every one of Illinois’ 892 school districts–except Chicago–is fully elected. Electing school board members will give our constituents a voice in determining the priorities, policies and finances of CPS.

The families we serve, and the neighborhoods in which we live and work, have been harmed by decades of unelected school boards. The destruction includes: closure of scores of schools, including 49 schools in 2013 alone, privatization of services with a decline in quality, failures in meeting the needs of students in experiencing homelessness, failures in educating special education students resulting in a state takeover of CPS’ special education department, corruption scandals involving two CEOs, adoption of risky financial schemes like toxic interest-rate swaps, disparate discipline outcomes for students, and increased police school presence, to name a few.

In referendums in both 2012 and 2015, 90% of voters agreed that Chicago needs democracy in school governance. Two bills are under consideration in the Illinois General Assembly, HB 2908 (Chief sponsor Rep. Delia Ramirez) and SB 2497 (Chief sponsor Sen. Rob Martwick). These companion bills both feature voting districts which are small enough to enable true people representation that reflects Chicago’s diverse population. These districts would be roughly the population of an Illinois House District. Moreover, the size of the board would encourage community residents and small neighborhood-based donors, and discourage big money interests from influencing election outcomes. Our coalition also strongly favors legislative action to limit the influence of big money.

Chicago’s mayor has raised the concern of parent empowerment and noncitizen voting rights. We strongly want to empower CPS parents and community members to run as, and vote for, candidates for Chicago’s elected school board, regardless of their citizenship status. We intend to actively work to support legislation (SB1565, Chief sponsor Sen. Celina Villanueva), which has already been filed, to that effect.

The time is now to pass a fully elected and representative school board to give all residents — and especially parents — the right to choose who will make decisions for their school district. We are asking you to support HB 2908 and SB 2497.

Signed,

Action Center on Race and the Economy
Action Now
Arab American Action Network
Arise Chicago
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Chicago
Black Lives Matter Chicago
Blackroots Alliance
Brighton Park Neighborhood Council
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1
Citizen Action IL
Community Renewal Society
Cook County College Teachers Union, Local 1600
Enlace Chicago
Grassroots Collaborative
Hermosa Neighborhood Association
Illinois Families for Public Schools
Indivisible IL9
Jane Addams Senior Caucus
Jewish Council on Urban Affairs
Kenwood Oakland Community Organization
Logan Square Neighborhood Association
Lugenia Burns Hope Center
Northside Action for Justice
ONE Northside
Parents 4 Teachers
Pilsen Alliance
Raise Your Hand Illinois
Rincon Family Services
Service Employees International Union, Health Care Illinois
Service Employees International Union, Local 73
Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation
Southsiders Together Organizing for Power
Southwest Collective
Southwest Organizing Project
The People’s Lobby / Reclaim Chicago
Teachers for Social Justice
United Working Families
1st Ward United
United Neighbors of the 10th Ward
11th Ward Independent Political Organization
12th Ward Independent Political Organization
14th Ward Independent Progressive Organization
22nd Ward Independent Political Organization
25th Ward Independent Political Organization
26 – Grassroots Illinois Action
32nd Ward United
33rd Ward Working Families
United Neighbors of the 35th Ward
39th Ward Neighbors United
40th United
United Northwest Side
48th Ward Neighbors For Justice
Network 49
50th Ward United Working Families