SPRINGFIELD – A bill that would implement an elected Chicago school board passed the Illinois House Thursday, while opponents of the legislation continued to push for compromise amendments.
House Bill 2908 would create elections for 21 Chicago school board members in the 2023 and 2027 consolidated primary elections. Currently, the seven sitting Chicago Board of Education members are appointed by the mayor.
The proposed bill would divide the city into 20 electoral districts to be determined by the General Assembly, with one member to be elected at-large to serve as school board president.
Proponents of the bill, including chief sponsor Delia Ramirez, D-Chicago, said the proposal would bring fairness and democracy to the city of Chicago, the only school district in the state without an elected school board.
“Denied democracy is no democracy,” Ramirez said. “There is no way that we can talk about caring about students anywhere when we decide, for whatever reason, to deny them from that.”
The bill received no support from Republican members in the House, despite having received support from GOP lawmakers when similar bills were proposed in recent years.
Republican leader Jim Durkin questioned the reasoning for the bill, saying the proposal stems from legislators’ personal conflicts with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
“I’m not sure what the problems are that prompted this, it seems to be more of a personality conflict that happened when Mayor Lightfoot was elected,” Durkin said. “What’s driving this is not substance, but clearly a personality conflict with the sitting mayor.”
Democratic Rep. Will Guzzardi, of Chicago, pushed back on that criticism, saying that parents, teachers and community activists have been pushing for an elected school board since the Richard M. Daley administration. He noted the proposal had received Republican support in the past.
“We all supported this idea not as some sort of personal petty grievance, but because we believe that the same democracy that’s good enough in every other district in the state of Illinois to govern our schools is good enough for Chicago,” Guzzardi said.
Durkin and other House members, including Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, raised concerns that the mayor’s office had not been involved enough in the current version of the bill, and argued that additional guidance would be necessary.
“It’s very important that mayor has say in this process, whether she’s late to the game or not,” Ford said. “I hope that moving forward that we and she can get our act together so we can have the best bill that becomes law.”
The Senate Executive Committee passed an elected school board bill as well Wednesday, Senate Bill 2497. According to the Sun-Times, chief senate sponsor Robert Martwick, D-Chicago, said he was open to possible amendments, while Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford suggested continued negotiations with the Mayor’s office would be necessary.
“I’m concerned about the bill that Senator Martwick is carrying,” Lightford said during Thursday’s committee hearing.
“I would like to make sure that moving forward on something as significant as the impact of 350,000 students and their families, that we do all we can to ensure that we have the best outcome as legislators,” she added.
Opponents in that committee argued for a hybrid elected school board, with at least a portion of the board members being elected with the rest being appointed by the Mayor.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is urging the public to remain peaceful and reserve judgement until an independent board can complete its investigation into the police shooting of a 13-year-old boy last month.
Lightford filed an amendment to Senate Bill 827 Wednesday establishing a hybrid of elected and appointed Chicago school board members. By 2028, that bill would transition the school board to having 11 members, eight of them appointed by the mayor and three of them elected.
HB 2908 passed the House floor by a 71-39 vote and will be sent to the Senate floor.
House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch praised the bill’s passage in a statement Thursday afternoon.
“I am very proud of Rep. Ramirez and the caucus for getting this important reform through,” Welch said. “I also applaud the advocates who have been pushing for this reform for years to help create a more equitable and representative Chicago Board of Education. Like every other city in Illinois, parents and community members deserve to have a seat at the table when it comes to their school district.”
6 things to know about Illinois pausing Johnson & Johnson vaccine use
The move follows recommendations from the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after reports of six people experiencing blood clots about two weeks after vaccination.
The CDC and FDA are reviewing data involving six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot that people have experienced after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to a statement from both federal agencies.
WHERE IT WAS DETECTED
The blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis was seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets in these cases, the federal agencies said. All six cases were women between the ages of 18 and 48, and they all started experiencing symptoms six to 13 days after vaccination.
According to CDC data, Illinois has administered 270,790 Johnson and Johnson doses, or to 2.1% of the state’s population. Moderna and Pfizer make up the vast majority of doses on hand in the State of Illinois, state officials said in a statement Tuesday. This week, the state’s allocation of J&J was 17,000 doses, the state said. For the week of April 18, 2021, the expected allocation for the State is 483,720 total doses. Of that total allocation, 5,800 doses were expected to be J&J.
Those who were given the Johnson & Johnson vaccine who are experiencing severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath within three weeks after receiving the shot should contact their health care provider, the health department said.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine March 24 at an Illinois National Guard mass vaccination site at the state fairgrounds in Springfield.
The state has notified all providers to discontinue use of the vaccine and is “strongly advising” them to use the two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccines instead, the Department of Public Health said Tuesday.
Pritzker in recent weeks has hailed the arrival of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine as a key part of the state’s effort to vaccinate people as quickly as possible to stay ahead of the faster spreading variants of COVID-19 that are circulating in Illinois.
As the manufacturer has run into supply problems, however, Pritzker has downplayed its importance at the current stage of the vaccination effort. But just Monday, the state announced that it was deploying “rapid response” teams equipped with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to counties in north-central Illinois where the virus is surging and putting a strain on intensive care units.
Officials with the FDA and the CDC in a press call on Tuesday morning advised people who have gotten the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the last two weeks to seek medical treatment if they experience severe headaches, abdominal pain, leg pain or shortness of breath. These symptoms, though, are different than the mild flu-like symptoms that many have felt after receiving one of the shots, officials said. People who received the vaccine a month or more ago face very low risk. Janet Woodcock, acting Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, stressed that the blood clots “appear to be very rare,” but said that safety is the agency’s top priority. The officials said they are reaching out to state and local health officials, pharmacies and physicians who have been giving the vaccines to make sure they know about the pause, and know how to evaluate people for symptoms. They encourage people to keep appointments of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and the agencies’ partners will work with people to reschedule appointments for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“While these events are very rare, we are recommending a pause in order to prepare the health care system to recognize and treat patients appropriately,” said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC. Of the six women who suffered from the blood clots, one has died and another is in critical condition, officials said.