Paul Vallas, the former head of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) district, says the city should have a "hybrid" school board with both voter-elected and mayor-appointed members.
He spoke Wednesday night at an elected school board forum hosted by state Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago) at the Athenaeum Theatre on Chicago's North Side.
Other panelists at the discussion included Wendy Katten with the Raise Your Hand coalition and Eric "Rico" Gutstein, a professor in curriculum and instruction at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
"I believe that you do need elected members of the school board," said Vallas, who was the CPS CEO from 1995 to 2001 and also ran schools in New Orleans, Philadelphia and Bridgeport, Connecticut. "I believe that you do need transparency."
The same day former Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett pleaded guilty to her role in a multimillion-dollar kickback scheme, education activists and local lawmakers on Tuesday stressed the need for an elected school board in the city.
"We're here because we want every position on that school board elected by the people of Chicago," Action Now's Executive Director Katelyn Johnson said during a morning press conference at Federal Plaza before Byrd-Bennett's arraignment. "We have a right to democracy. We have a right as parents and community members to voice our opinions about our schools, and we have a right to a better school system. Our children deserve it."
After facing fierce backlash from parents and educators over special education cuts, the Chicago Public Schools announced Tuesday that it is "conducting a month-long process" to review the proposed funding reductions.
Education activists celebrated the 34-day Dyett hunger strike during a rally at the Thompson Center Tuesday evening and vowed to press candidates on the issue of an elected Chicago school board during the 2016 state legislative elections.
The rally, attended by approximately 150 people, comes over a week after about a dozen Chicago parents and education advocates ended their hunger strike to keep Bronzeville's Dyett High School open. Dyett closed in June after being slated for phaseout in 2012.
"I'm really proud of the Dyett hunger strikers. They stood up for what they believed in," Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza told Progress Illinois at the rally. "They won. They kept their school open."
Still, Sadlowski Garza said it was unfortunate that parents had to put their health and lives at risk to improve education in their community.
"No one should have to starve or fight for a fully-funded education, not in the world we live in now," she said. "Kids, regardless where you live or the color of your skin, everyone should get an equal education."