Chicagoans Poised to Reject Rahm’s Rubber-Stamp School Board

Advisory referendum in 37 wards across city launches next step for democracy to Chicago education, dealing Emanuel a major defeat

CHICAGO (February 23, 2015) -- For twenty years, Chicago’s mayor has appointed members of the Chicago Board of Education. Tomorrow, voters in 37 wards across the city will be given a voice with an advisory referendum on whether to end this practice and achieve true democracy with an elected, representative school board.

Citing 20 years of abject failure with an appointed school board, including the closure of some 50 neighborhood schools, United Working Families joined with the Campaign for an Elected, Representative School Board this fall in gathering signatures and allowing Chicago voters to voice their will for reform.

The likely passage of the referendum Tuesday would represent a major defeat for Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a victory for democracy in Chicago education.

“Whether it’s his undemocratic school closures or cronies like Deborah Quazzo raking in millions of taxpayer dollars, Rahm Emanuel’s rubber-stamp school board has been a total disaster.

“We expect the people to reject Rahm’s status quo Tuesday and then we’ll go to Springfield to show lawmakers that Chicago taxpayers want to elect their school board members,” said Kristen Crowell, executive director of United Working Families.


Chicago is the only K-12 district in the state without an elected board and just one of the few in the nation.

Mayoral control with an appointed school board started with the 1995 Amendatory Act – a state law that changed the school code. Failed reforms from Mayor Richard M. Daley’s Renaissance 2010 and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s closing of 50 schools in 2013 were rammed through by the rubber-stamping boards, despite overwhelming community opposition.

In 2012, an ERSB measure was on the ballot in 13% of Chicago precincts and 87% voters in those precincts voted “yes” to an elected school board.



The Campaign for an Elected, Representative School Board is a coalition of community activists dedicated to bringing democracy and accountability to the Chicago Public Schools. Member organizations are:  Northside Action for Justice, Communities United, Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Raise Your Hand, Parents for Teachers, Teachers for Social Justice, Blocks Together, Enlace, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Action Now, KOCO, Pilsen Alliance, Grassroots Illinois Action, Chicago Teachers Union, United Working Families, Jobs with Justice, CODE – Communities Organized for Democracy in Education

United Working Families is a Chicago-based affiliation of the Chicago Teachers Union, SEIU Healthcare Illinois, Action Now and Grassroots Illinois Action.