About the Chicago Board of Education

Chicago's school board will soon transition from being appointed by the mayor to being elected by voters. Here’s everything you need to know about the law that created the new board and what this means for families like yours.

Parent Priorities

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.

Fair Racial Representation

Parents want the school board to reflect the racial composition of the CPS student body, more so than the city of Chicago's population. While 90% of CPS students are children of color and 10% are white, Chicago is 33% white.

View a visual of Chicago’s vs. CPS’s racial representation and what this could mean for the school board.

Noncitizen Participation

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.

Dive Deeper:

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, including a law in San Francisco that permits noncitizen parents to vote in local school board elections. Some of these laws have faced legal scrutiny– the San Francisco law was overturned before being reinstated by an appeals court and a court in New York overturned a New York City law in 2022 that would have permitted noncitizens to vote in municipal 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)

Noncitizen parents will again be able to vote in S.F. school board elections after group drops legal fight (Los Angeles Times, October 11, 2023)

Parent Seats on the Board

95% of parents in our workshops said they wanted at least half of the Board members to be parents.

The new law does not set aside seats on the Board for CPS parents, as is the case with Chicago's Local School Councils. Running a campaign can be time-consuming and extremely expensive and the law does not allow members to earn a salary or stipend. However, there have been recent efforts to amend the law to allow members to receive some compensation for their time.

As the law currently stands, serving on the Board is not accessible to most CPS families.

Illinois lawmakers propose allowing Chicago’s school board members to be paid (Chalkbeat Chicago, October 24, 2023)

Campaign Spending Limits

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.

How L.A.'s school board election became the most expensive in U.S. history (L.A. Times, May 21, 2017)

National conservative groups pour money into local school board races (Politico, September 19, 2022)

Pritzker signs law banning dark money, out-of-state contributions in judicial campaigns (NPR Illinois, November 15, 2021)

Can Campaign Finance Be Reformed In Chicago? Ald Wants $250 Cap On Donations From Insiders With ‘Outsized Influence’ (Block Club Chicago, July 27, 2022)

Citywide Poll on Chicago’s Transition to an Elected School Board

Key Findings

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.

Read more about K1C's Fall 2023 Poll Methodology & Results >

Get Involved

Meet with our team to learn about opportunities to help shape Chicago’s new Elected School Board.

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