What you need to know about picking all those Chicago School Board members

What you need to know about picking all those Chicago School Board members

Chicago revealed proposed district maps for the 2024 school board election that have drawn plenty of criticism. Here’s what you need to know about how, when and from where those 21 members will be picked.

Multiple maps. Appointments and elections. Minority or majority. The Chicago Board of Education’s transition from appointed to elected is a controversial tangle, but here’s what you need to know to sort it out.

How big?: The school board will during the next few years triple from a seven-member board appointed by the mayor to a 21-member elected board, thanks to a 2021 law.

Chicago will eventually have the largest school board of any major city in the country, according to Chalkbeat Chicago. The members will transition from some elected and some appointed to being fully elected by 2027, with the first election being held in November 2024.

Appointed or elected: In the first election, voters will choose 10 members of the board from 10 districts across the city drawn by the Illinois General Assembly. Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson will appoint 11 remaining members, 10 representing one of the board districts each and one acting as board president. In the 2026 election, Chicago will be redistricted into 20 single-member districts from which the voters will elect representative members, and a 21st member acting as board president will be elected citywide. The vice president will then be elected by the board from among its members.

10 or 20?: Illinois law requires the General Assembly to divide the city into 10 school electoral districts for the 2024 election and 20 school electoral districts for the 2026 election. Causing some confusion, the General Assembly released a first draft map in May consisting of 20 districts, rather than the 10 required by law. The first proposed map also received criticism for reflecting the racial demographics of the city’s population, rather than the population of Chicago Public Schools students.

Demographic dust-up: When the General Assembly released the draft earlier this month, advocates argued it underrepresented minority students. While the population of Chicago is 33% white, 29% Latino, and 29% Black, CPS students are 11% white, 46.5% Latino, and 36% Black, according to Chalkbeat Chicago. By basing the districts on the city population rather than CPS population, the board would end up with significantly less Latino representation than the CPS student body. This has drawn the ire of a number of student advocacy groups, but because the law requires the districts to be equal in total population, not student population, drafting districts that reflect the demographics of students could prove difficult.

Can’t run or vote: Some groups have pointed out many Latino residents represented by a board district are not citizens and would not be able to run or vote in the board elections. An Illinois Senate bill would have allowed noncitizen parents to vote in school board elections, but that bill wallowed in the Elections subcommittee and never had a hearing.

Re-do: The General Assembly released a revised draft of the 20-district map on May 17 that slightly tilts the balance of two of the districts in favor of Latinos, but which advocates have again rejected. A Senate special subcommittee held hearings on the new map May 18, and the Illinois House is set to hold an additional hearing on May 19.

Deadline: Under state law, the General Assembly has until July 1 to pass a final map.

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