Legislators are Developing District Maps
Illinois legislators have a deadline of April 2024 to create and release district maps for voting in the upcoming school board elections. But they are likely to settle on maps this fall and the proposals so far do not fairly represent Black and Brown families.
Citywide Poll on Chicago’s Transition to an Elected School Board
In the fall of 2023, K1C engaged Qualtrics, a commercial survey sampling and administration company, to execute a citywide poll of registered and/or eligible voters in Chicago. The goal was to find out if the views and priorities of K1C parents are similar to those of the general Chicago voter population.
Key findings from the poll indicate that Chicago voters want:
The racial and ethnic composition of elected school board districts to reflect the composition of the Chicago Public Schools student body. Chicago's demographics are significantly different from those of the CPS student body. As of 2022, Chicago’s population was approximately 57% Black and Latine while the CPS student body was almost 82% Black and Latine. A majority of respondents (75%) thought it was “extremely” (44%) or “very” (31%) essential that districts have racial representation that reflects the racially diverse CPS student population.
Any Chicago adult to be able to vote in school board elections, regardless of their immigration status. A majority of respondents (68%) support any Chicago adult voting, regardless of immigration status.
Any Chicago adult to be able to serve on the school board regardless of immigration status. More than half of the respondents (58%) support any Chicago adult serving on the board, regardless of their immigration status.
Strict limits on donations to elected school board candidate campaigns. A majority of respondents (74%) support strict limits on donations.
Stipends or salaries for elected school board members serving on the board. A majority of respondents (71%) support school board members receiving a stipend or salary.
Parent seats on the board. A majority of respondents (69%) thought it was “extremely important” (27%) or “very important” (42%) that there be board seats reserved only for CPS parents.
Additionally, there is a general lack of awareness that there is an upcoming transition to an elected school board. Only 52% of Chicago voters are aware, with roughly 2 out of 5 current CPS families unaware of the transition.
Kids First Chicago, in conjunction with its Elected School Board Task Force, is now calling on Springfield to amend Chicago’s elected school board legislation to align with the public’s priorities for an elected board and improve its long-term chances of success.
We asked parents what was most important to them about Chicago’s new school board and they had four priorities: fair racial representation, parent seats on the board, noncitizen participation, and campaign spending limits.
Parents want the school board to better represent the populations in CPS rather than Chicago’s population. While 90% of CPS students are children of color and 10% are white, Chicago is 33% white.
Under the new law, noncitizens will not be allowed to run for School Board positions or even vote for Board members. A Noncitizen Advisory Board will be created to help inform Board members on education issues faced by noncitizen students and their families, though it will have no power to make policy.
By contrast, noncitizens can run and vote in Local School Council (LSC) elections.
While noncitizens do not vote in most U.S. elections today, that has not always been the case. There are also recent examples of municipalities allowing noncitizens to vote in certain elections. In 2022, Courts overturned laws that allowed noncitizens to vote in New York City municipal elections and San Francisco School Board elections.
The Long, Strange History of Non-Citizen Voting (Bloomberg, November 7, 2016)
New York City’s Noncitizen Voting Law Is Struck Down (NYTimes, June 27, 2022)
San Francisco Superior Court Revokes Non-Citizen Parents’ Right to Vote in School Board Elections (The San Francisco Standard, July 29, 2022)
95% of parents in our workshops said they wanted at least half of Board members to be parents.
The new law does not guarantee CPS families seats on the Board. Running a campaign can be time-consuming and extremely expensive and once a member is elected, the position is unpaid.
As the law currently stands, serving on the Board is not accessible to most CPS families.
Parents have said they don’t want elections to be dominated by politics and money, but the new law has very few limitations on how candidates can raise or spend money for their campaigns.
Vendors with CPS contracts are not allowed to donate to Board campaigns—which would be a clear conflict of interest. Outside of that, normal state campaign finance laws govern how campaign funds can be raised and spent.
This means that candidates can raise:
Up to $6,900 from an individual.
Up to $13,700 from a corporation or union.
Up to $68,500 from a political action committee or another candidate’s committee.
If any individual donates more than $100,000 to their own campaign, then these contribution limits are lifted for all candidates in that race.
Super PACs are already spending millions of dollars on School Board races around the country. In Los Angeles, School Board races have turned into big money political contests between opposing ideologies. Yet, there are examples of local efforts to limit the influence of money on elections. For instance, there is a new law limiting contributions in Illinois judicial races and a proposed ordinance in the City of Chicago that would establish a public financing option for municipal elections. These could serve as models to limit money's influence in School Board elections.
Meet with our team to learn about opportunities to help shape Chicago’s new Elected School Board.