Elected School Board Referendum Removed From February Ballot

By aaroncynic in News on Oct 8, 2014 3:45PM

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Photo credit: Aaron Cynic/Chicagoist

Once again, a referendum asking Chicagoans if they would support an elected school board—rather than one appointed by Mayor Emanuel—will not appear on next year's ballot. The Chicago Tribune reports the City Council Rules Committee approved three non-binding questions for the ballot in February yesterday, advisory questions meant as a way to gauge public support on legislation, two of which were just added. State law only allows for three referendums on the ballot.

According to DNAInfo Chicago, the Rules Committee only had one referendum on the docket, sponsored by Ald. Joe Moore (49th), on whether or not employers in the city should give paid sick leave to workers. A substitute resolution on the agenda added two more—one on public financing for elections and one sponsored by Ald. Deborah Graham (29th) on whether city employees convicted of domestic violence crimes should be required to seek treatment.

Ald. John Arena (45th) and Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) said the move was directly aimed at blocking efforts to call for an elected school board.

Calling it “political shenanigans," Arena said:

"Clearly they're afraid of the question. I believe that these questions, and the timing of them, makes clear that they're designed to crowd out more relevant questions.”

Waguespack pointed out that federal law already covers the two other questions. Moore has had a hand in blocking the elected school board question before. When the referendum was first brought to the table in 2012, Moore wouldn’t allow debate or a vote because aldermen supporting it filed their paperwork three minutes late.

Moore denied any sort of shenanigans, telling the Trib “I think these are important issues, and groups supporting these ideas approached me about putting them on the ballot.”

Chicago is the only city in Illinois without an elected school board. Instead, the board is made up of appointees by the mayor, which are confirmed by the City Council. Proponents of an elected school board say advisory referendums in limited areas and other polls show overwhelming support from voters.

Waguespack told the Sun-Times:

“It’s not just the elected school board. It’s about the whole education system being put to the test and the policies that the administration espouses versus what a lot of the voters out there would like to see. At least allow them to be asked the question of whether they want an elected school board. To prevent that question from being out there… is trying to defray the political cost that go with the decisions that the mayor... has made.”