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Melting the Rubber Stamp: Chicago’s Unelected Board of Education

By joel • Sep 12, 2012 • Print-Friendly

The seven members of Chicago’s Board of Education, along with CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, are, in theory, responsible for the governance of the city’s schools. In reality, they are only accountable to the man that appointed them—Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

As anyone who has ever witnessed a board hearing knows, members like Hyatt heiress Penny Pritzker and former Northwestern President Henry Bienen, when they bother to show up at all, nod indifferently to public testimony, toy with their smart phones, and reliably vote in the interests of their boss. This past winter, after the board voted unanimously to close or turnaround 17 schools, frustrated parents burst into tears, and community members chanted “Rubber Stamp!” until CPS security escorted them out of the room.

Unwilling to accept such belligerent disregard for community input, education organizers and activists have launched a campaign for an elected, representative school board. Communities Organized for Democracy in Education (CODE), a coalition of education groups, circulated petitions this summer to put the question to Chicagoans in an advisory referendum: should the Board of Education be elected instead of appointed by the mayor?

Melting the Rubber Stamp: Chicago’s Unelected Board of Education