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Aldermen push for city-wide referendum on elected school board

Updated: December 10, 2012 6:24AM



Independent Chicago aldermen vowed Thursday to push for a citywide referendum on an elected school board opposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, emboldened by 86 percent support from voters in parts of 35 wards.

Despite a parliamentary maneuver by a mayoral ally that blocked referenda in 10 Chicago wards, education activists in 327 precincts went door-to-door to gather the signatures needed to put the elected school board question on the ballot. The results were overwhelming. By an 86.6 percent margin, 65,763 Chicagoans said they would prefer an elected school board to the current system of seven mayoral appointees confirmed by the City Council.

Chicago has the only school district in the state that does not have an elected school board.

Only the state General Assembly could make the switch to an elected board. But, overwhelming approval of a citywide referendum would give momentum to the grass-roots movement by voters fed up with the “top-down” decisions made by Emanuel’s handpicked Board of Education.

“What happened this cycle is like a focus group. Out of upwards of 2,500 precincts in Chicago, it was only on the ballot in 327 precincts. With 327 precincts voting overwhelmingly in support of the elected school board, it’s clear we need a citywide referendum” in March, 2014, said Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd).

“People want transparency. People want accountability. People want to have input into how their schools are run and administered. This is a key issue on how to get neighborhoods involved in their schools.”

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) attributed the 86 percent vote to “anger and animosity” generated by the teachers strike and to the parliamentary maneuver that forced proponents to go door-to-door.



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