Most Chicago schools have enough applicants for an active local school board
After extending its application deadline last month, Chicago Public Schools has enough applicants for local school boards in nearly 95% of district-operated schools.
Districtwide, 485 of 509 schools have enough nominees to meet quorum requirements for public school governing bodies known as local school boards, or LSCs. About 24 schools did not garner enough candidates to achieve quorum, according to the district.
The district received 6,123 applications for 6,239 total positions at 509 schools. LSC elections will take place on April 20 for elementary schools and April 21 for secondary schools. A list of candidates vying for a seat can be viewed here.
Organizer Natasha Erskine, who runs independent district training workshops through the parent advocacy group Raise Your Hand, said local school boards provide a unique opportunity for the parent-majority governing body to take decisions about their child’s education.
This is an opportunity to “close the equity gaps” in Chicago public schools that have been “exasperated by the pandemic,” Erskine said. “If we are not part of the solution, what are our alternatives to ensure that the educational and safety needs of our children are met in these buildings? »
Local school boards, an example of hyperlocal school governance, are elected every two years. A facet of Chicago school governance since the mid-1990s, boards vote on the school’s annual budget, approve the school’s school plan, and select and evaluate principals.
Councils are traditionally made up of the school principal, six parents, two community members, two teachers, non-teaching staff and one to three students. For the first time in district history, elementary students in grades six and up can run for and serve one-year terms in their school’s LSC.
“Chicago Public Schools is fully committed to ensuring equal representation in the election of local school board members,” the district said in a statement. “CPS appreciates these dedicated volunteer school leaders, made up of parents, community members, students and staff, who work to support the academic progress, financial stability and integrity of our schools.
In 2020, as a wave of student activism helped put school policing strategies in the national spotlight, Mayor Lori Lightfoot instructed Chicago high school boards to vote on whether to retain or remove police officers, a controversial transfer of authority that has put some members – who do not receive a salary – in a position of public scrutiny.
The district has struggled with lukewarm attendance over the past decade. In the last election cycle in 2020, as the city grappled with the pandemic, more than 35,000 votes were cast for council candidates, a 43% drop from the 2018 election. , about 900 seats remained vacant, a situation that caused a wave of nominations.
Days before the district’s deadline in March, only 722 applications had been submitted for a total of 6,239 positions on the boards of 509 schools. About 307 schools had no candidates for the vacancies.
Across the district, approximately 2,441 parents applied for the 3,014 parent seats. About 992 students applied for one of 639 student representative seats, and 980 community members submitted nominations for the 1,019 available community representative seats, according to the district.
Schools, mostly on the South and West Sides, that received nominations but did not meet a quorum include Whittier Elementary School, Williams High School, Chicago Vocational High School and Hearst Elementary School, according to a Chalkbeat analysis of the election website. LSC.
For these schools, the District’s Local School Board Relations Department will work with campuses to fill vacancies after July 1.
Chicago Academy High School, Rickover Naval Academy, Velma Thomas Early Childhood Center, and Emmett Till Math and Science Academy received no applications and will be considered inactive for the two-year term. These schools will have the opportunity to elect members in the 2024 elections.
The district said it participated in more than 100 events and announced elections on radio, television interviews and social media to promote participation before the deadline.
Erskine acknowledged that turnout had dwindled. The “devastating impact of the pandemic” on families and the lack of transparency about meeting times and locations make it difficult for parents and community members to get involved, she said.
“How do you run a virtual meeting while still relying on a pre-pandemic way of announcing a public meeting? Erskine wondered.
Still, she remains hopeful that parents and community members will pick up the slack to better serve students in their communities.
“We shouldn’t be discouraged,” Erskine said. “We need parents and community members. We are facing deep budget cuts in many of our schools and now is the time for people to step up to fill those seats so we can get the kind of education our students need.
Mauricio Peña is a reporter for Chalkbeat Chicago, covering K-12 schools. Contact Mauricio at [email protected]