Critics of the draft voting map for Chicago’s elected school board want a do-over

The map reflects the city’s demographics rather than the minority-heavy CPS student body. Lawmakers on Tuesday said it’s only a first draft.

SHARE Critics of the draft voting map for Chicago’s elected school board want a do-over
Parents, teachers and community groups on Tuesday told Illinois Democrats they want a map for Chicago’s upcoming school board elections based on the city’s student demographics rather than its overall population.

Parents, teachers and community groups on Tuesday told Illinois Democrats they want a map for Chicago’s upcoming school board elections based on the city’s student demographics rather than its overall population.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Parents, teachers and community groups on Tuesday asked Illinois Democrats to go back to the drawing board and create a new map for Chicago’s upcoming school board elections. They want a map based on the city’s student demographics rather than its overall population.

About a dozen people spoke at a virtual hearing Tuesday evening. This comes days after state lawmakers released a first draft map. Lawmakers have until July 1 to draw the voting boundaries.

As first noted by Chalkbeat Chicago, the draft map proposes seven majority white districts, seven majority Black districts and six majority Latino districts — closely resembling the city’s population, which is 33% white, 29% Black, and 29% Latino, according to the U.S. Census.

But the CPS student population is 11% white, 36% Black and 47% Latino.

The draft map for Chicago’s upcoming school board elections proposes seven majority white districts, seven majority Black districts and six majority Latino districts — closely resembling the city’s population, which is 33% white, 29% Black, and 29% Latino, according to the U.S. Census. But the CPS student population is 11% white, 36% Black and 47% Latino.

The draft map for Chicago’s upcoming school board elections proposes seven majority white districts, seven majority Black districts and six majority Latino districts — closely resembling the city’s population, which is 33% white, 29% Black, and 29% Latino, according to the U.S. Census. But the CPS student population is 11% white, 36% Black and 47% Latino.

The Ill General Assembly Special Committee on the Chicago Elected Representative School Board or Illinois Senate and House Democrats

“Springfield is proposing a map that sets the table for a majority white board that governs the outcomes of BIPOC students and families,” said Daniel Anello, CEO of the nonprofit Kids First Chicago, in a statement.

In releasing the draft map, lawmakers said the 20 districts “keep communities of interest as whole as possible” and reflect the “diversity of Chicago,” according to a news release.

But Anello said residents want legislators to create districts that give more representation to minority communities. His organization analyzed the draft map and found that white voters make up the second most prominent block for all but four of the 20 districts.

Comparatively, Black residents make up fewer than 20% of the voting base in 13 districts. In 11 of the districts, Latinos make up fewer than 20% of the voting population.

The city will begin to transition to an elected school board starting in 2025.

Sen. Kimberly Lightford, the Chicago Democrat who chairs the committee tasked with the mapmaking, said their initial proposal incorporates feedback from more than a dozen public hearings. They have received nine map proposals from outside groups.

“This draft map is just that — a draft,” Lightford said. “It will not be easy to balance various desires and perspectives, but we must not lose sight of the fact that this is a sea change to how we approach education in Chicago.”

What comes next

Ami Gandhi, a voting rights expert with the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee, said civil rights advocates and community groups “insist” that lawmakers release more details to help people understand whether voters rights will be protected by the draft map or “unfairly diluted.”

“In my many years as a voting rights advocate and attorney, one of my takeaways is that the shape alone of a district doesn’t tell the whole story,” she said.

Gandhi said there are several requirements that legislators are bound to consider, including voting rights law and federal civil rights protections that protect communities of color and their ability to elect the candidates of their choice.

“The districts have to be substantially equal in resident population numbers,” she said. “But the map can and should utilize lots of factors in determining what [it] should look like.”

Gandhi says one of those factors should “absolutely” be student population and demographics, given the representation and accountability goals that drove the creation of a Chicago elected board.

“I don’t think that how many districts are majority of which race tells the whole story … that simple threshold is not enough to determine whether the map sufficiently protects the voting rights of Black voters, Latino voters and other voters of color.

Nereida Moreno covers education for WBEZ.

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