Chicago Public Schools announced today that it would extend the deadline for candidates to file to run in the upcoming Local School Council elections. Candidates now have until March 23–the previous deadline was March 8–to submit the appropriate paperwork, found here.
“The extension will provide more time for CPS to recruit parents and community members interested in strengthening their local schools and providing a positive impact on student achievement,” stated a press release issued by CPS.
Coincidental or not, a coalition of 27 organizations from across Chicago had addressed a letter on March 6 to CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard demanding just such an extension, citing fewer than 2,000 candidates having registered to fill 6,800 LSC slots.
While not taking credit for the CPS extension, Donald Moore, executive director of Designs for Change, a member of the coalition, said, “They were aware of what we were doing. They knew that we were planning to make this demand. We do know that we accomplished what we set out to do.”
In the letter to Brizard, the Coalition to Strengthen Local Schools Councils wrote, “The low candidate turnout reflects your personal lack of forceful visible leadership in encouraging candidacy or recognizing the existence and contribution of Local School Councils since you took office.”
According to Moore, fewer than one-quarter of Chicago’s voting population has a student enrolled in CPS; LSCs are scarcely on their radar, if at all. Though the CPS news release lists a number of candidate outreach efforts–Twitter, Facebook, posters at City Hall–Moore finds CPS woefully lacking when it comes to generating awareness of and interest in what he terms “the largest municipal election in the U.S.”
“The board, they say how important it is, but we’ve heard virtually nothing from them to promote [LSC elections] in a highly visible way,” said Moore. “We don’t get publicity from the board or from the media. The Sun-Times, the Tribune, television, radio stations–they don’t publicize the accomplishments of LSCs and they don’t publicize the elections.”
Moore was a member of the movement that pushed for the formation of LSCs back in 1988. “It’s been a fight ever since for school-based democratic control versus central-based control,” he said. “Daley tried at least twice to get rid of the powers of the LSC. We’ve spent 20 years contesting first Daley and now Emanuel about whether the system should be centralized.”
In Moore’s view, this constant tug-of-war only serves to discourage potential LSC candidates. “They think, ‘Why put all this energy into serving on the LSC? What’s the upside?’ To me, the amazing thing is that as many people have persisted.”
Given the two-week filing extension, Designs for Change will continue its grassroots efforts to recruit candidates, knocking on doors, asking current LSC members for referrals, handing out flyers to parents as they drop off or pick up kids from school. “Hopefully we’ll get a respectful number of candidates,” said Moore. “It comes down to the issue of whether people in Chicago can govern their own schools.”