Elected and Appointed School Boards, Explained

The effort to change Chicago’s school board from mayor-appointed to elected could win this legislative session. But Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who supported an elected school board when she ran for office, appears to be changing her mind in favor of a hybrid between elected and appointed members, which would allow her to retain final authority and continue to hold the mayor ultimately accountable.

What are the pros and cons of elected versus appointed school boards? Daniel Anello of Kids First Chicago has created a pair of informative videos that dive into the differences. First, we’ll start with appointed school boards, which is the kind of school board Chicago has since the very beginning of its public schools.

Here’s what Anello has to say about appointed school boards.

It’s also worth noting that recent policy research has shown that mayorally-appointed school boards in big cities like Boston and Chicago have shown note-worthy success in reallocating resources to benefit students and in raising student achievement.

While Chicago has had an appointed school board since 1872, more than 90% of school boards in the United States are elected by their local communities. Here is Anello’s introduction to the pros and cons of elected school boards.

Kids First has been holding information sessions with hundreds of Chicago parents on the South and West sides. These sessions inform parents about elected, appointed, and hybrid governance and ask them what they want.

After these sessions, parents’ ideas don’t really look like the current bills in Springfield to create a 21-member board. While they want to change the board, they want to keep some of the advantages of the current system. They also want to keep a strong relationship between the mayor and the schools. Most importantly, they want parents at the center of board leadership, which cannot be guaranteed under a fully-elected board. Learn more here about the innovations these parents want.

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Maureen Kelleher

Chicago Unheard blog manager Maureen Kelleher also serves as a senior writer and editor at brightbeam, a nonprofit network of education activists demanding a better education and brighter future for every child. Before joining the brightbeam team, she spent a decade as a reporter, blogger and policy analyst. Her work has been published across the education world, from Education Week to the Center for American Progress. A former high school English teacher, she is also the proud mom of a middle-schooler. Find her on Twitter at @KelleherMaureen.

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