Elected Board Dysfunction

Folks including CTU say that an elected school board would be better for Chicago Public Schools -- not to mention giving CTU much more power than it currently has -- and indeed the way things are set up now you might as well get rid of the appointed board and just run CPS as a city agency like CPD or Streets and Sanitation.  But that doesn't mean that an elected school board is a realistic or reasonable alternative (or guarantees improved results), as the Los Angeles example reminds us.  Click below for video of the board members bickering earlier this week (something they frequently do), and read about the nine candidates the union has endorsed (for three spots), and the $10 million that will be spent on the race for three open seats in March (salary: $48,000). In this video clip, LAUSD Board Members Tamar Galatzan and Steve Zimmer debate the risks the grant application veto could pose to school funding opportunities during the Tuesday, December 11 meeting:

Despite Galatzan’s—and Superintendent John Deasy’s—objections, Zimmer voted yes on the proposal, and the grant application veto passed with a 4-3 vote. (See: Controversial Grant Approval Measure Passes)

Previous posts (from LA School Report): UTLA Endorsements,  UTLA Board Keeps Options Open, and here Union Endorses Multiple Candidates All told, 15 candidates have filed paperwork and the three races are anticipated to cost $10 million, between direct contributions and independent expenditures from labor and reform allies.


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  • Check out a piece I wrote this week for the Catalyst discussing the need to remember LSCs during our push for an elected school board.


  • The problem in the Chicago area, and affecting all boards, is that either there is something like the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, where no voter knows the qualifications of anyone who is running, except that the Democrats get out the vote in any event, or the appointed boards, where it appears that the politicians (especially Emanuel and Quinn) don't care about necessary qualifications, and instead of overseeing the performance of the agencies, the board members just do what Emanuel, though figureheads such as Brizard, tell them to, the public to be damned. If you think the school board is bad, look at the CTA Board.

    Until such time as qualifications mean something, and until such time as those on the boards don't act as both puppets and autocrats, there doesn't seem to be a solution, either way. Has the CPS Board exercised independent judgment on anything?

  • Just watched the video clip, and far from viewing this board discussion as "bickering", I thought it was a refreshing debate regarding policy -- an activity our rubber stamp board sorely lacks.

  • Alex and Emanuel may not be fans of democracy, but I am.

    Isn't it much easier to appoint a panel of rubber stamp sycophants than actually have to deal with elected officials who may actually have contrasting opinions?

  • Democracy is indeed a messy business, but so wonderful and exciting to see and participate in. Wish we had more of it here in Chicago. Feeling like Germany circa 1932 these days....sieg heil and a happy new year to all.

  • The idea of a elected school board may be more appealing
    than the reality. If they were elected in geographic districts
    it might stand a chance of success.If it is an at-large election
    forget any hint of credibility.

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    And there you have it--the essential argument against the Elected School Board is, "Democracy might suck, so why bother?"

    Successful socially engaged democracy vs. dysfunction is the difference between hard-working civic participation and the type of cynicism displayed above.

  • Dear Sweet Lady

    What you call cynicism I call reality.Chicago is a one party town.
    If any school board is elected at large it will be a disaster.
    Only by running from defined districts can neighborhoods
    be represented as they wish. Do you actually believe the Democratic
    Machine is going to allow anyone to get their hands on the Board of educations budget ? Will this " hard working civic participation"
    you so elegantly wrote about cost one alder-creature their
    historic role to influence who works in the schools within the Ward?
    First let your 'Socially engaged democracy" fix the city.

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