Illinois lawmakers release first draft of Chicago’s elected school board map

A hand is holding a pen in front of a computer screen.
Illinois lawmakers released a first draft of Chicago’s elected school board map on Friday ahead of a July 1 deadline. (Jamie Kelter Davis for Chalkbeat)

Under a draft map released Friday, Chicago’s elected school board would eventually be drawn from 20 districts reflecting the demographics of the city overall.

The proposal from Illinois lawmakers is a long-awaited development in the school district’s shift away from mayoral control. If the draft were adopted, the school board would likely end up skewing whiter than the students it would be representing.

That’s because the draft map proposes seven majority white districts, seven majority Black districts, and six majority Latino districts. Chicago Public Schools student population is 46.5% Latino, 36% Black, 11% white, and 4% Asian American. 

The public will get a chance to offer feedback before a July 1 deadline for lawmakers to approve the map. The first school board elections are scheduled for Nov. 5, 2024. At that time, 10 members will be elected and 10 members and a school board president will be appointed by the mayor. The 11 appointed seats will switch to being elected in 2026. 

The debate about whether the map should reflect the makeup of the city overall or its student population has come up in recent weeks, as Chicagoans testified at public hearings. The city’s population is 33% white, 29% Black, and 29% Latino. 

Two groups of Democrats — one from the state Senate and one from the House — have held public hearings about the maps. They jointly released the draft map.

A proposed map dividing Chicago into 20 districts for school board elections. (Screenshot of Illinois Senate Redistricting Website)

In a statement, Sen. Kimberly Lightford, who represents parts of Chicago’s West Side and is chair of the Senate’s Special Committee on the Chicago Elected Representative School Board, said the committee took into account testimony from public hearings held in recent weeks.

“This draft map is intended to continue those conversations as the legislature works toward adopting boundaries that will help empower families and uplift children,” Lightford said in a statement.

Kids First Chicago, which collected feedback from hundreds of parents and submitted its own map proposal to lawmakers last month, said the draft map should be thrown out. 

“We demand legislators go back to the drawing board and create districts that are more representative of CPS,” Daniel Anello, CEO of Kids First Chicago, said in a statement Saturday. 

The Illinois African Americans for Equitable Redistricting, which submitted a map with 10 districts that mostly align with current Ward boundaries for City Council, also took issue with the draft map. Valerie Leonard, the group’s leader, called it a “non-starter.” 

Leonard raised questions about whether only half the city will vote for school board seats in 2024 under a proposed 20-district map. The law states “the City of Chicago shall be subdivided into 10 electoral districts for the 2024 elections and into 20 electoral districts for the 2026 elections.” 

“Will the Mayor appoint 10 people to fill the vacancies of 10 districts while 10 of the districts will hold elections in 2024? Will the 20 districts be coupled, so that we effectively have 10 districts?” Leonard asked in testimony she submitted at a Saturday hearing and shared with Chalkbeat. 

Others took issue with the sprawling nature of some of the proposed districts.  

“This map is a gerrymandered disgrace,” Chicago Republican Party Chair Steve Boulton said in a statement. “Parents living at 79th and Western share a board district with parents in Hegewisch, 12 miles away. Parents in the West Loop share a board district with those near Marquette Park, almost nine miles away.” 

The elected school board districts have to comply with the Illinois Voting Rights Act and must be “compact, contiguous, and substantially equal in population.”

The Senate’s special committee will hold a virtual meeting to gather feedback on the proposed map at 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 9. It will be livestreamed on ilga.gov. The public can also provide comment at Additional opportunities to provide comment can be accessed online at www.ilsenateredistricting.com or by sending an email to ChicagoERSBCommittee@senatedem.ilga.gov

This story has been updated with additional reaction to the draft elected school board map.

Becky Vevea is the bureau chief for Chalkbeat Chicago. Contact Becky at bvevea@chalkbeat.org.  

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