This is a developing story; check back for updates.

Today, a decade after the Chicago Board of Education’s 2013 vote to close 50 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) — the most of any school district in history — the district is inching closer to an elected school board. 

Late last night, Illinois General Assembly democrats released an updated draft of a map for the elected school board. The timing of the release is notable because the fight for an elected school board was galvanized in part by the 2013 school closures. 

CPS parent advocacy groups, many of whom were critical of the first draft of the map, say the new one still doesn’t address their concerns around fair representation of Black and Latiné families. 

“We want to create a good foundation,” said Valerie Leonard, the cofounder of Illinois African Americans for Equitable Redistricting. “If we don’t get it right now, we can’t make any changes until 10 years from now.” IAAFER is one of several community groups that presented drafts of elected school board maps to state lawmakers. The group was formed in 2021 in response to state-level Congressional redistricting, with the goal of ensuring equity and inclusion of the interests of Black people in that process. 

Chicago’s school board has been appointed by the mayor since 1995, when the General Assembly passed the Chicago School Reform Amendatory Act. 

Since the mid-2000s, education advocates, community organizations and parents have pushed for an elected representative school board. The mass school closures, which were enacted by then-mayor Rahm Emanual under the Renaissance 2010 plan, largely impacted neighborhood schools in majority-Black and brown neighborhoods while expanding the number of private charter and contract schools in CPS. 

The fruits of organizers’ decades-long advocacy are just a year away from becoming a reality. In 2021, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a law that will transform the school board from an appointed body to an elected one. In 2024, voters will elect 10 board members to four-year terms that will start in 2025, and the Chicago mayor will appoint 11 more, including the board president, to two-year terms.  

The original deadline for establishing the districts was Feb. 11, 2022, but the General Assembly subsequently moved it to July 1, 2023. The current legislative session is scheduled to end on Friday, giving advocates little time to weigh in on the new map. The State Senate committee in charge of the school district map will hold a virtual hearing on the draft at 5 p.m. today at  The House will hold a hearing on the map on Friday, May 19. Residents can also send feedback to

Update 5/19/23:  At both the Senate committee hearing on Thursday and the House committee hearing the following morning, parents, advocates and elected officials blasted the new draft of the school board map as well as the manner in which state legislators released it to the public. On Thursday evening, the House executive committee announced its hearing was scheduled for 8:30 Friday morning. Despite the short window, advocates submitted 62 witness slips opposing the map; zero witness slips were filed in support of it, Eli Brottman told the committee in his testimony.

Lawmakers revised the original draft map after advocates pointed out that Latiné families, who make up nearly half of CPS students, were underrepresented. The student population in CPS is 47 percent Latiné, 36 percent Black and 11 percent white.

The newest draft has seven districts whose voting-age population is at least 50 percent Black, five districts with at least 50 percent Latiné voters and five with at least 50 percent white voters. Three more districts in the new map have no one racial majority, but Latiné residents are the largest group, or plurality, in two (at about 40 percent) and one has a white plurality. 

The draft is still drawing criticism from advocates, however. 

Leonard said legislators haven’t been transparent enough about what went into drawing the updated map. “If we understood their methodology for building this map, it might be a little bit easier to understand,” she said. IAAFER’s proposed map would create 10 districts total, each encompassing five of Chicago’s wards. There would be three majority-Black districts, three majority-Latiné and four majority-white districts. Leonard said the map aligns ward and school board district boundaries more efficiently. 

Importantly, she added that IAAFER will “pass muster with the Voting Rights Act because it’s built on a map that has already passed legal muster,” namely, the ward maps. She added the group’s map is intended to accommodate all communities.

“Ten years from now, you’ll have totally different actors, they’re not going to understand the rationale as to why the maps are as they are,” Leonard said. “It’s gonna be much, much, much harder and you’re not going to have the political will to do a sweeping change to make it right 10 years from now.”


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Vanessa Espinoza, a CPS parent and activist with Kids First, an education advocacy nonprofit, said the districts with a Latiné plurality aren’t guaranteed Latiné representation on the school board. Furthermore, she added, citizenship status must be considered for such districts.

“Many of the Latino families whose kids are enrolled in CPS are non-citizens. Therefore, they won’t be able to vote,” Espinoza said. “So this map is not a representation of racial equity.” 

Kids First rallied outside CPS headquarters on Wednesday to advocate for a fair map. After legislators released the new draft late that night, the organization put out an analysis that calls the draft “a step in the right direction” and stresses the need for making non-citizen participation possible. 

“To me, common sense would say if you know in this district [non-citizens] don’t vote, the plurality [favors] the white population,” Espinoza said.

Kids First organizers rallied outside CPS Headquarters in the Loop on May 17 to demand equitable school board maps. | Jim Daley for The TRiiBE®

The education advocacy nonprofit Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education had similar criticisms to Kids First. In a statement released Thursday, Raise Your Hand and the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council said they expected “more significant revisions” in the latest draft of the map.

“While we have seen significant improvements on the Northwest side, we are still concerned that the districts are still not drawn in a way that maximizes the agency of the Black and Brown families who have been historically harmed most by mayoral control,” the statement read.   

“We need a map that mirrors the progressive policies and racial demographics of CPS. We need more Latine representation that does not come at the cost of losing Black majority districts. There needs to be continued input from the community — 24 hours’ notice is not sufficient.” 

Denali Dasgupta, a data researcher and CPS parent who ran for 39th Ward alderperson in 2023, said the maps should also take into account where students live as well as the segregation within the school district and the city. Dasgupta works with a data-activism group dubbed The FOIA Bakery that has produced detailed analyses of the draft maps and proposed their own. 

“The density of where a lot of citizen voting-age adults live is not the density of where a lot of public school attending families live,” Dasgupta said. 

Furthermore, roughly 30 percent of Black students in CPS attend schools whose student bodies are at least 90 percent Black, and 22 percent attend schools with student bodies that are 95 percent Black. That segregation, combined with the residential segregation of the city as a whole, must be acknowledged by legislators, she said.

One of the districts in the new draft of the map, called “District S” under the map’s labeling rubric, would likely be challenged in court under the Voting Rights Act. According to a FOIA Bakery analysis, that district, which would be on the Southwest Side, has 28 schools with student bodies that are more than 90 percent Black. It also includes the Mount Greenwood and Cassell elementary schools, which are majority-white. 

Wards in District S largely voted for Paul Vallas, the pro-charter former CPS CEO, in both the February 28 mayoral election and the April 4 runoff, with white voters in the 19th Ward having some of the highest turnout in the city. Dasgupta said that’s an indicator of how the proposed district would vote in school board elections. 

“When you fast-forward to the future and you think about who is going to be sitting in the [school board] seats and which voters elected them, who are they beholden to?” Dasgupta said. “How are they mentally framing these key governance and fiscal decisions that come in front of them?”

The new draft, she said, “is not very good for the people who need the most out of injecting democracy into how we govern our schools.”

The General Assembly has scheduled two public hearings on the new map. The state Senate will hold a hearing today at 5 p.m., less than 24 hours after releasing the draft. The House will hold a hearing Friday, but has not yet said what time. 

In a press release Wednesday night that accompanied the latest draft, Illinois state Rep. Ann Williams (D-11), who leads the House Democrats’ CPS Districting Working Group, stated, “This map continues our effort to create a robust, representative map using feedback received from the public and stakeholders. We look forward to hearing additional input.”

Espinoza said she thinks the late-night release and short window was an intentional strategy, so that parents would have less time to prepare a response. “These strategies do not let parents first be educated, because there’s no time to analyze what’s going on, and second, you have to register to give testimony [today],” she said. “So there is no inclusivity at all.”

Leonard, of IAAFER, agreed. 

“I expected this,” Leonard said. “I even told people yesterday they would do it under the cloak of darkness, and it happened. So they have not changed the way they operate. Do I like it? No. Am I surprised? No. That’s just what they do. I think they want to give the public as little time to respond as possible and organize.”

Correction 5/19/23: This story originally stated that the anniversary of CPS voting to close 50 schools was May 18; that anniversary is in fact May 22.

is the digital news editor for The TRiiBE.
is a multimedia reporter for The TRiiBE.