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On the ballot: elected school board

In the wake of a dramatic school strike — and just prior to the anticipated announcement of scores of school closings — residents of 327 precincts in 35 wards will vote next month on an advisory referendum calling for an elected school board.

With 77 percent of Chicagoans backing an elected school board according to a Chicago Tribune poll, the challenge facing Communities Organized for Democracy in Education, the coalition of groups backing the referendum, is making sure voters know about the referendum and go to the end of the ballot to vote on it, said Austin schools activist Dwayne Truss.

On the West Side, State Representative La Shawn Ford has sponsored two forums on the referendum, with a third scheduled for Monday, October 29 at 6 p.m. at Carey AME Church, 1448 S. Homan.

Ford, who’s sponsoring legislation establishing a legislative task force to study the issue, has invited supporters of the referendum as well as CPS and Democrats for Education Reform, the group that paid for Mayor Emanuel’s post-strike TV ad blitz.  CPS and DFER have declined to participate, Truss said.

Tuesday forum features Karen Lewis

On Tuesday night, CODE is holding a forum on the referendum at the Logan Square Auditorium,  2539 N. Kedzie (7 p.m., October 23), featuring Karen Lewis, Ben Joravsky, and Pauline Lipman of UIC and Teachers for Social Justice.

Tuesday’s forum will be broadcast live on CAN-TV 27.

At Ford’s October 8 forum, Lipman reviewed findings from her 2011 study of elected and appointed boards.  Chicago’s school board is the only appointed board in the state and a rarity in the nation, where 96 percent of school boards are elected, she said.

Elected boards “tend to look more like the people who elect them,” Lipman said.  “They have parents and teachers and community organizers and education experts.”  Chicago’s board “has corporate CEOs and bankers and real estate developers,” she said.

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