Between barbs, Preckwinkle and Lightfoot talk schools

In the first televised debate of the runoff, Toni Preckwinkle and Lori Lightfoot sparred about who was the real “insider” and who had the bonafides to best lead the city. But when the conversation turned to schools, the two mayoral hopefuls essentially agreed on broad-strokes questions about empty buildings, pensions, and union negotiations. Here’s what they said about those issues in the debate hosted Thursday night by NBC 5 and Telemundo.

Which brings us to a question: On issues of schools policy, how to distinguish the two?

As Chicago moves into runoff mode, Chalkbeat readers have a lot of questions about where Preckwinkle and Lightfoot stand. Here’s what you told us in a survey that you’d like to ask the two women who are campaigning hard to be the city’s next mayor and de facto head of schools.

Our informal poll also found that undecided voters lead the pack: 69 percent of readers who took the anonymous five-question poll said they were undecided between the two candidates.

You can find out more about our survey here.

And you can continue submitting questions to us via 


We’re Cassie Walker Burke, Adeshina Emmanuel and Yana Kunichoff, and we round up Chicago education news every week — just for you. Please send any tips or story ideas our way: And support local journalism! Sign up for our newsletter, here, and share it with a friend.

The week in review

Podcasts for the mind: It’s hard to talk about mental health, especially for teens. The Hancock High School Podcast Club set out to teach members technical skills, and along the way, tackled some of the toughest topics facing teens today.  

A new need for civics: Only slightly more than one-third of eligible voters cast a ballot in the February election, with a particularly low turnout of young voters. As Illinois steps up the push for civics education, we talked to young voters about what moves them to the polls.

The Chicago model: Bill Gates saw a recipe for success in Chicago’s Network for College Success, a group housed at the University of Chicago that works with 17 Chicago high schools. Now he’s using it as a model for his current education vision.

The “Zombie PARCC” test is coming: Illinois is rolling out a new state test for third- to eighth-grade students, but don’t expect much change. In fact the new state tests will have the same questions as the old tests — just fewer, and taking less time. 

Speaking out: In two recent opinion pieces, current and a former schools chiefs make their case for what the future of Chicago Public Schools could look like. Current CEO Janice Jackson pointed to a steady rise in graduation rates as a sign that the district is improving for the Chicago students it serves. Former schools chief Arne Duncan, meanwhile, touted Chicago’s national standing, and reminded readers that those gains were made under an appointed school board, a system that both mayoral candidates Lori Lightfoot and Toni Preckwinkle have promised to change if elected.

Talking school improvement: Author Emily Krone Phillips joined Allan Golston, president of the Gates Foundation’s U.S. program, for a Facebook Live discussion about how her book on Chicago’s efforts to support ninth graders can help inform the work of the foundation. You can read an excerpt from Krone Phillips’ book here, as well as Chalkbeat Chicago’s interview with her and Maurice Swinney, the district’s chief equity officer.

Looking ahead

The Illinois State Charter School Commission will meet on March 19 to consider final decisions on charter schools that have appealed to the state for support, and the Illinois State Board of Education will hold its monthly meeting on March 20.

On March 20, the University of Illinois Chicago’s Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy will hold a lecture on the future of Chicago Public Schools.  


Congratulations to Curie Metro High School student DaJuan Gordon on being named the Chicago Sun-Times’ player of the year. The high school basketball player saw some setbacks but, with talent and a strong attitude, was able to bring Curie’s team, the Condors, to “a remarkable success,” the paper reported.

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