Lawmakers push back against Chicago School Board’s decision to remove police from schools

Illinois lawmakers have introduced two bills that target the recent decisions made by the Chicago Board of Education regarding school choice policies and the presence of school resource officers on campuses.

These bills address decisions made by the board that have sparked mixed reactions from school communities and elected officials, including a plan to reassess the district’s school choice system and a new school safety plan that prohibits the use of school resource officers.

The first bill aims to prevent the closure of selective-enrollment schools and any alterations to their admissions policies for the next three years. The second bill seeks to empower local school councils to decide whether to have on-campus police officers, a right that would be forfeited under the new safety plan.

These bills have garnered support from various Chicago-based state lawmakers and influential figures, including House Speaker Chris Welch.

The proposed legislation highlights the assertion of state authority over Chicago’s school governance, following recent legislative actions related to the election of Chicago’s first-ever elected school board.

Criticism of this power dynamic has emerged from Chicago Teachers Union President Stacy Davis Gates, who has expressed support for the board’s initiatives on school choice and resource officers.

Longtime activist Dwayne Truss, an outspoken opponent of the board’s stance on school resource officers, views the lawmakers’ intervention as a crucial measure to safeguard local rights.

In response to the board’s decision to phase out school resource officers, a bill has been introduced that would allow local school councils to engage with the Chicago Police Department for such services.

Representative Mary Gill, a key proponent of the bill, emphasizes the importance of empowering local school councils to make decisions that align with the needs of their schools regarding school resource officers.

Furthermore, the bill has already passed through the House’s Police and Fire committee and is awaiting further deliberation at the House floor.

The board’s endorsed safety plan emphasizes alternative disciplinary practices like restorative justice, intended to decrease arrests and foster conflict resolution within schools.

Advocates of the board’s resolution argue in favor of redirecting resources from on-campus police officers to enhance support services for students, acknowledging the disproportionate impact on certain student populations.

While the board’s actions have gained widespread endorsement, they have also faced opposition from community members and officials who advocate for local autonomy in determining the presence of school resource officers.

Regarding selective enrollment schools, a bill has been proposed to prohibit the closure of schools with selective admissions criteria until 2027, amid concerns about potential changes to admissions policies and funding priorities.

This legislative response follows the board moving toward rethinking the school choice system and realigning resource allocations to achieve equitable funding across schools.

Representative Margaret Croke articulates the need to preserve the status quo of selective enrollment schools until a fully elected Chicago Board of Education is in place by 2026, emphasizing the importance of elected officials reflecting the will of the voters.

The pushback against the board’s resolutions reflects a broader call for enhanced community engagement in decision-making processes, urging for repeal of certain policies and renewed efforts to involve stakeholders in shaping educational strategies.

Efforts to improve community engagement and gather input on critical issues have been emphasized, with plans for forthcoming engagement sessions to inform the district’s future strategic plan.

Supporters and critics alike await further developments as these legislative proposals navigate the legislative process and could reshape the educational landscape in Chicago.

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