October 24, 2023

Advocates Praise Illinois Lawmakers for Commitment to Transform Chicago’s School Board

Illinois State Senator Robert Martwick and Representative Kam Buckner announced legislation today to permit compensation of school board members, recognizing the impact of the board’s role in shaping education outcomes in Chicago. The announcement comes as Chicago prepares to transition from a seven-member mayoral-appointed school board to a 21-member elected school board within the next school year. 

Educators, parents and other community advocates have cited a need for school board members to receive modest compensation, reflecting the significance, time and demands of the job. Among ensuring that the school board represents Chicago’s communities, members also govern the school district’s $9 billion budget, 33,000 employees and 325,000 students – a considerable responsibility that would otherwise be compensated in comparably elected positions.

“We need to stop pretending that governing one of the largest school districts in the nation is a small volunteer position, because it’s not,” said Courtney Hrejsa, Executive Director of Educators for Excellence-Chicago. “It’s a significant job with accountability to constituents and decision-rights over the entire school system, and we need the most essential stakeholders, such as teachers and parents, to be able to afford to run and serve.”

“The legislation promotes equity by addressing one of the largest barriers to participation in public service,” said Valerie F. Leonard, Co-Founder, Illinois African Americans For Equitable Redistricting. “Compensation of school board members is needed for more diverse representation.” 

According to Lorena Lopez, a member of Kids First Chicago’s Parent Advisory Board and Kids First Chicago’s Elected School Board Task Force, compensation also increases parents’ ability to pursue a seat on the school board.

“By compensating school board members, we can remove a significant barrier that discourages everyday parents from seeking these positions,” Lopez said. “Many passionate, knowledgeable, and committed parents in our community would struggle to serve on the school board without financial support.”

Natasha Dunn, Executive Director of the Black Community Collaborative, also praised Senator Martwick and Representative Buckner for their support of modest compensation and highlighted how it can ensure Chicago’s school board truly represents the city and students it serves. 

“With 76% of the student population in Chicago Public Schools being low-income, it’s important to compensate board members,” said Dunn. “We want representation that reflects our students’ reality, and compensating board members paves the way for true representation and equity.”

Consuelo Martinez, a Chicago parent, further highlighted that school board compensation is not only necessary to ensure the newly elected school board is equitable, functional and accessible. It’s also what the people of Chicago have overwhelmingly called for. 

A recent Kids First Chicago poll found that more than 71% of Chicago voters believe that elected school board members should receive some sort of compensation for serving on the board,” said Martinez. “Compensation allows parents who intimately understand the challenges and aspirations of our students to actively participate in shaping the policies that affect our schools.”

The bill is expected to be introduced during the fall legislative session, currently scheduled to convene on October 24, 2023. Educators for Excellence-Chicago’s Elected School Board Teacher Action Team is calling on all Illinois General Assembly members to support the bill’s passage to ensure equitable and representative governance for Chicago Public Schools. 


About Educators for Excellence

Founded by public school teachers, Educators for Excellence is a growing movement of more than 33,000 educators, united around a common set of values and principles for improving student learning and elevating the teaching profession. We work together to identify issues that impact our schools, create solutions to these challenges, and advocate for policies and programs that give all students access to a quality education. 

For more information, please visit e4e.org.

Currently Reading

Advocates Praise Illinois Lawmakers for Commitment to Transform Chicago’s School Board