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Chicago will begin electing its school board in 2026

July 30, 2021
A 21-member school board will take the place of a 7-member panel that has been appointed by the mayor.

Chicago voters will elect their school board beginning in 2026, under legislation signed by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The Chicago Tribune reports that a 21-member elected board will replace a seven-member panel appointed by the mayor and approved by the city council.

The legislation calls for the board overseeing Chicago Public Schools to transition to a hybrid panel in 2025--10 members will be elected from geographic districts and 11 members, including a board president,will be appointed by the mayor.

The appointed members would be replaced with elected ones following the 2026 election.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other opponents have criticized the size of the new board and argued that taking away mayoral control would politicize school governance, threaten academic gains and give too much power to the Chicago Teachers Union.

Lightfoot backed an elected school board during her 2019 campaign for office. But as mayor, she has emerged as a vocal advocate for mayoral control over the school system.

The elected school bill has faced criticism from people who argue that it will make it harder to hold the system accountable if there isn’t a single person like the mayor in charge.

But others said the mayor has historically had too much power. University of Illinois at Chicago professor Dick Simpson said the city needs to be “moving towards a more deliberative, participatory democracy than Chicago is used to under the boss mayor system and machine control that goes back nearly 100 years.”

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