Bill would strip local school councils of principal selection, budget powers

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Grassroots education advocacy groups are reeling from the news that state Senator James Meeks has filed a bill that would strip local school councils of their most important powers, including selecting principals and controlling their school’s discretionary funds. The bill would make LSCs merely advisory boards and would transfer their authority to the Board of Education.

Grassroots education advocacy groups are reeling from the news that state Sen. James Meeks filed a bill Monday that would strip local school councils of their most important powers, including selecting principals and controlling their school’s discretionary funds.

The bill would make LSCs merely advisory boards and would transfer their authority to the Board of Education.

Meeks, a Democrat and the pastor of the House of Hope, a megachurch on the Far South Side, did not return calls on Wednesday.

Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Monique Bond issued a statement that “Meeks has been a champion of school reform and education and his efforts to ensure that students are receiving the best educational opportunities is consistent with our mission, and we look forward to reviewing the legislation.”

But Bond did not respond to follow-up questions about whether CPS officials knew Meeks planned to submit the bill and whether the district supports it. 

Leaders of advocacy groups say they had no idea that the bill was coming. 

“We are completely shocked and stunned about this bill, considering we have had no communication from Meeks’ office on an issue that directly affects us,” says Clarice Berry, the president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association.

Don Moore, executive director of Designs for Change, says he does not understand Meeks’ motives. 

“It seems ironic that an elected official from the South Side would propose a bill that would basically gut the powers of LSC’s, which have a majority of African American members,” Moore says.

In recent years, the district has curbed the power of LSCs by choosing principals for schools on probation and by creating charters and other new schools that are not required to have LSCs. 

Still, education advocates were caught off-guard by the attempt to completely remove any power from the councils. 

Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart cited the bill as more evidence of bureaucratic leadership ignoring the needs of students in favor of their own agendas. She made her comments at a previously scheduled CTU press conference on Wednesday regarding school closings.

Wanda Hopkins, assistant director of Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE) says that the organization will not rest until the bill is stopped.

“We’re going to fight it like we’ve never fought before,” she says. “We are not going to let them kill our community.”