Nov 26, 2012
During the recent election, 65,800 Chicagoans voted in favor of an elected school board, while 10,200 voted against. The measure was on the ballot in 327 of Chicago’s 2500 election precincts.
This was an advisory referendum only. Nonetheless, it allowed some voters to express their anger at Rahm Emanuel’s dictatorial rule over the Chicago schools – anger felt by most working class parents and teachers in Chicago.
Today the state legislature claims the power to decide how Chicago’s school board is chosen. Since 1995, it has put that power in the hands of Chicago’s mayor. Chicago is the only school district in Illinois with an appointed rather than an elected school board – a very special kind of undemocratic treatment for the population of Chicago.
Emanuel and his friends on the city council did everything they could to prevent the referendum from getting on the ballot. He pulled an electoral maneuver preventing it from appearing on the city-wide ballot. When activists pushed aldermen to put it on their ward ballots, the Democratic Party apparatus blocked them on a technicality. Finally they had to go precinct by precinct collecting signatures – facing obstacles thrown up by the “Democratic” Party machine. Despite all the barriers, they succeeded in getting it on the ballot in 327 of Chicago’s 2500 precincts.
Of course, an elected school board wouldn’t solve the problems of education. In a city that wealth has long controlled, those elections could also become little more than a farce.
But the work carried out by a coalition of parents and teachers to let their opinion be heard, let many other Chicagoans express just how they feel about Emanuel’s school policy. Those who got the chance took it, telling Emanuel – “Take your dictatorship and shove it!”