Monday, August 10, 2015

EXTRA: Merely a pol power shift?

The Illinois General Assembly isn’t making any progress toward approving a state budget, yet it seems the legislators are trying to keep themselves busy. That could be the most dangerous aspect of this political stalemate!

Will these people in Springfield really try to dictate ...
How else to explain the portion of the Chicago delegation in Springfield who want the General Assembly to change state law requiring that the board of education for the Chicago Public Schools be elected by the voters?

CURRENTLY, WE HAVE school board members who get appointed by the mayor. Richard M. Daley went through two decades as mayor being able to dictate who ran the school system, and Rahm Emanuel has had the same power during his time in office.

Yet the people who were desperate to dump Rahm as mayor in this year’s election cycle have also been vocal in their desire to reduce what authority he has.

Leading to the bill that could come up for some sort of vote during the November veto session, or may linger around through next spring. Or maybe it will become one of those perennial issues that causes much debate, but little activity, in the General Assembly.

I don’t doubt the sincerity of the legislators – Reps. Robert Martwick, Elgie Sims, Art Turner, Mary Flowers, LaShawn Ford and Jaime Andrade – in introducing this bill. Which calls for 13 people from across four sections of Chicago to be elected. They may think they're doing the right thing.

THEY MAY EVEN believe their rhetoric that they can advance this bill in the legislative process during upcoming weeks – the time when the Legislature returns to Springfield on the off-chance they will do something budget-related, but wind up doing this instead.

Yet I remain skeptical of the idea that an elected school board makes any real difference. To me, it sounds like a power shift.

... who gets to serve here in Chicago Board of Education?
Instead of having Emanuel in control of who runs the local school system, it will wind up being the party chairmen – the ones who often dictate which candidates for political office wind up being taken seriously by voters and which ones are the fringe kooks who get disregarded.

It would create a whole new round of political posts for the party chairmen to fill, which would mean more government officials who would be indebted to them.

I’M NOT NECESSARILY out to blast state party Chairman Michael Madigan or Cook County party Chair Joe Berrios. But does it really make much of a difference who has the influence to pick the school board members?

I think the people eager to make the change to an elected school board overestimate the difference that it would make. It has been my own experience in dealing with some of the suburban school boards that are elected that the quality of people who wind up serving doesn’t really get bolstered.

They wind up being the local politicos who, for whatever reason, fall short of getting elected to the aldermanic or trustee post they’d prefer.

Is that what we really want for the Chicago Public Schools – the people who got squeezed out of a seat on the Chicago City Council?


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