The Case for Compensating Chicago School Board Members

Lorena Lopez and Consuelo Martinez, both members of Kids First Chicago’s Parent Advisory Board and Elected School Board Task Force who also serve on Local School Councils, share a compelling argument to compensate Chicago's elected school board members.

By Consuelo Martinez, Lorena Lopez | April 1, 2024 |
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The Importance of Diverse Voices & Perspectives

With Chicago on the verge of ushering in its first-ever elected school board, the need to offer compensation to board members is an important step toward creating more inclusive, diverse, and effective governance for our city’s schools. Our belief in compensating school board members is based on a simple goal: ensuring that our school board mirrors the diversity of experiences and voices throughout our city, with a specific focus on including parents.

Overcoming Barriers to Representation

The role of a school board member is both demanding and critical to the future of Chicago. Board members make major decisions about the educational experiences and services offered within our public schools. They have enormous sway over how money is spent and how students and families are engaged and supported. Our public schools are the heart of our communities and when schools thrive, communities and families do too.

Despite the complexity of the job, the current expectation for board members to serve without any compensation presents a significant barrier, deterring many from even considering participating—especially parents, who have unique insights into the needs and aspirations of our students.

We need parent representation on Chicago’s school board. The perspectives that parents bring, rooted in their daily experiences with the school system's challenges and opportunities, are invaluable. However, the lack of financial support prevents many potential candidates from being able to commit the necessary time and energy.

Why Compensation Matters

  • It addresses accessibility issues and allows working-class people to participate.

  • It fosters dynamic and inclusive leadership.

  • It affirms the value of board members’ contributions.

  • It sends a message that being a board member is a serious commitment to the public.

A Vision for Equity and Inclusivity

Our advocacy for compensating school board members is driven by a vision for a more equitable and responsive education system. A recent poll by Kids First Chicago showed that over 70% of Chicago voters support offering a stipend or salary to elected school board members, highlighting widespread public recognition of the need for a governance model that is representative, inclusive, and values the time and commitment of its members.

By compensating board members, we can eliminate a significant obstacle to participation, making it possible for a broader array of individuals, particularly parents, to contribute to shaping the policies and decisions that affect our schools.

This proposed change sends a powerful message about the importance we place on education and the necessity of making our school governance structures accessible to all, particularly to those directly invested in the success of our schools. It is a step toward enhancing the quality of education in Chicago and creating a stronger, more interconnected community around our schools.

As Chicago stands at the threshold of a significant transformation with the move toward an elected school board, supporting compensation for its members is about more than fairness or financial aid; it's about creating a foundation for a more equitable, responsive, and forward-looking educational system.

Advocate with us

We urge everyone to contact their state legislators and urge them to seize this opportunity to impact the lives of our children and our city.

Look up your legislators
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