Illinois lawmakers challenge Chicago school board’s plans to remove police, rethink choice policy

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Illinois state lawmakers filed two bills last week aimed at reversing the Chicago Board of Education’s decisions to rethink school choice policies and remove school resource officers from campuses.

The bills focus on board moves that have drawn both support and sharp pushback in recent months from school communities and elected officials. Those decisions include a plan to reconsider the district’s system of school choice — including charter, selective enrollment, magnet, and gifted schools — and to create a new school safety plan that bans the use of school resource officers, or on-campus police.

The new state bills would significantly curtail both board decisions. One bill would prevent the closure of selective-enrollment schools and any changes to admissions policies at those schools for the next three years. The other would let local school councils retain the power to decide whether they want on-campus police — a right they would lose by next school year under a new safety plan.

Both bills have gathered support from other Chicago-based state lawmakers and powerful allies, including House Speaker Chris Welch.

The legislation is an example of lawmakers seeking to use state power to override Chicago’s authority over its schools. It comes just days after the Illinois House and Senate passed a bill governing elections for Chicago’s first-ever elected school board.

That power dynamic drew criticism from Chicago Teachers Union President Stacy Davis Gates, who has supported the board’s moves around school choice and resource officers.

“I remember being told by (Illinois General Assembly) members that they would *not* circumvent local control of CPS BOE,” Davis Gates tweeted in response to a tweet about the resource officer legislation. “That was in 2013 when Rahm Emanuel closed down 50 Black schools impacting nearly 20K Black children. Can anyone help me define irony?”

Dwayne Truss, a longtime activist on the West Side who has opposed the board’s decision on school resource officers, felt state lawmakers took an important step.

It’s the state’s attempt, Truss said, to “say, ‘Hey, if this is what they want, and it’s fair and it’s reasonable, then we have to protect those rights.’”

Some local school councils want to keep police officers

One of the state bills, House Bill 5008, would allow local school councils to contract with the Chicago Police Department for school resource officers. It would counteract a board vote two weeks ago to create a new school safety policy by June 27 that would end the use of school resource officers, effectively removing officers from 39 schools that currently have them, by next year.

“Local school councils are designed to make the best decision for their school,” said Rep. Mary Gill, a Democrat who represents neighborhoods on Chicago’s South Side and south suburbs, and is a key sponsor of HB 5008. “This is about keeping the power local to be able to decide if a (school resource officer) is needed, and from my research, 39 high schools would like to keep them. I think that’s enough.”

This bill passed the House’s Police and Fire committee last week, 13-0, and is headed to the House floor.

The safety plan board members called for in their vote two weeks ago would focus on more “holistic” approaches to discipline, such as restorative justice practices, which emphasize conflict resolution.

In steering away from on-campus police officers, the board cited data showing that Black students and those with disabilities were disciplined and arrested at school at disproportionately higher rates than their peers.

Schools that implemented restorative justice saw a drop in student arrests, according to a recent study.

The board decision drew substantial support, including from organizations that had pushed for years to get rid of on-campus police officers and use the money on other resources, such as more social workers or alternative discipline practices.

But it also triggered a backlash from community members and elected officials who want local councils — not the board — to decide whether their schools should have school resource officers.

Froy Jimenez, member of the district’s Local School Council Advisory Board, said Rep. Gill is “doing the city a big favor” by letting councils make the decision. Many parents, students and staff will be happy if the bill passes, said Jimenez, who is also a teacher at Hancock College Preparatory High School, which voted to remove its resource officers.

“Some will choose not to, and having that ability is crucial,” he said.

CPS spokesperson Sylvia Barragan said in a statement that the district “follows the policies and procedures set by the Board of Education and the Illinois State Board of Education” and that the district “remains committed to working with our leaders, administrators, and school staff toward improving efforts to bolster student safety and protection.”

Lawmakers say ‘hands off’ selective enrollment schools

The second bill, House Bill 5766, would prevent the closure of any school with selective admissions criteria — such as the city’s 11 selective high schools — until Feb. 1, 2027. The bill also calls for a halt to any changes to admissions criteria for selective schools or any decrease in funding to selective schools until 2027.

The bill is a response to the board resolution stating that it would rethink the school choice system and invest more resources in neighborhood schools. The resolution criticized admissions policies at selective enrollment and other “choice” schools, which were originally created to desegregate the school system but have in recent years led to segregation along the lines of student race and income.

Rep. Margaret Croke, a Democrat serving neighborhoods on the city’s northern lakefront who is sponsoring the bill, said her constituents were concerned about changes to selective enrollment schools under a majority appointed school board. They would rather wait for changes to be made after the Chicago Board of Education is fully elected during 2026, she said.

“If an elected school board that has been elected by the city of Chicago decides to take a position or action as it pertains to selective enrollment schools, I may not agree with it, but they were elected by the constituents and the voters of the city of Chicago,” said Croke.

Croke said she believes the current board is trying to change the funding formula to provide less money to selective enrollment and give more to neighborhood schools. The board’s resolution states that it wants to “ensure equitable funding and resources across schools within the District using an equity lens.”

Board members have expressed a desire to scrutinize charter schools more closely. They also want the district to provide more resources to neighborhood schools, or a child’s zoned school, in order to support “students furthest away from opportunity and ensure that all students have access to a world-class public pre-K through 12th-grade education,” officials said.

The board’s resolution did not include any language about closing schools, and board members have stated they don’t plan to close selective-enrollment schools. Written into the compromise hybrid school board bill in 2021 was a moratorium on school Chicago closures until after Jan. 15, 2025.

The resolution didn’t call for specific changes; board members said they want to hear from the public on what the district should do. The resulting plan will be part of the district’s five-year strategic plan, which the board is expected to vote on this summer.

Community groups call for better engagement

The pushback in Springfield comes after a coalition of community groups in Chicago sent a letter to Mayor Brandon Johnson urging him to push his hand-picked school board to do more — and better — community engagement.

The letter, which was sent to other elected officials, city staff, district officials, and school board members, also asked that the resolution on rethinking school choice policies, among other things, be repealed because it “was crafted with no input from the communities it will impact” and was published and approved during the final week of classes before winter break.

“There wasn’t a public comment opportunity when the resolution was announced. And then it just kind of passed,” said Daniel Anello, executive director of Kids First Chicago, a parent advocacy organization that helped create the letter.

In December, district officials said they would hold community engagement sessions in February. A Chicago Public Schools spokesperson said last week that the district now plans to hold community engagement sessions around the next five-year strategic plan after spring break, which is the last week of March.

Becky Vevea contributed reporting.

Reema Amin is a reporter covering Chicago Public Schools. Contact Reema at

Samantha Smylie is the state education reporter for Chalkbeat Chicago, covering school districts across the state, legislation, special education, and the state board of education. Contact Samantha at