“It’s been a busy day, and a good day here in the General Assembly,” State Representative Robert Martwick said as he began his third Facebook Live update on the evening of March 15th. Martwick had already led the passage of a bill providing an elected school board for the Chicago Public Schools in a remarkable 18-1 vote. “But I wasn’t done,” he continued.
That afternoon, Martwick was in the Higher Education Committee, presenting House Bill 1776 (“As if that number isn’t just perfect,” Martwick commented, which would provide an elected board of trustees for the City Colleges of Chicago as well.
Currently, the city of Chicago is the only district in Illinois with an appointed school board for both K-12 schools and community colleges. HB 1776 would change that system, allowing citizens to elect the people who govern our City Colleges. The bill passed unanimously in the Higher Education Committee. “Democrats and Republicans agree that the best solution for problems in a democracy is not less democracy, it’s more democracy,” Martwick said.
HB 1776 will now move from the Higher Education Committee to the House floor for a vote. “This will give a voice to our communities in Chicago. It will give a voice to our students as well,” Local 1600 President Tony Johnston commented, brandishing a large, red “Keep Community in our Community Colleges” button. President Johnston has been tirelessly walking the halls of Springfield and meeting with legislators, finding co-signers and garnering support for HB 1776.
“To think the residents of the city of Chicago, the students, the taxpayers of the city of Chicago shouldn’t have the opportunity to weigh in on an election just makes no sense to me,” Martwick explained, saying that the purpose of this bill is to democratize the school board process and provide the people of Chicago with appropriate representation. “I truly believe that having that democracy, and that dialogue, and that our school accountability will make systems better.”
Most importantly, this bill allows Chicagoans an active measure in controlling the direction of their schools. If people are upset with the decisions being made, they will be able to vote the decisionmakers out and replace them with more fitting leadership. “[City Colleges] may go ahead and go full force with Reinvention with a new Chancellor, and we’ll still have no recourse unless we get an Elected School Board,” President Johnston explained. “[This bill] is a voice for Chicagoans.”
Local 1600 would like to extend a tremendous thank you to State Representative Robert Martwick for his solidarity, leadership, and advocacy in helping get this bill passed.
The next step is to encourage your State Representatives to vote “YES” on HB 1776. Call, message, tweet, or do whatever it takes to get your voice heard. Let’s get this bill passed!