School Board Member Elections Could Bring Positive Changes to CPS

By Erin Geary

April 19, 2024

The Chicago School Board elections are upon us. Ten seats will be filled by those who sway voters to their way of thinking regarding the best way to run the Chicago Public Schools. Those that win will have a tough task ahead of them because the other ten seats are appointed by the mayor. Finding consensus will be difficult, for Mayor Johnson’s vision of CPS is led by Chicago Teacher Union’s Stacy Davis Gates.

And this fact should be the winning ticket for a school board candidate. Unions should not decide the fate of educating children. Stacy and Jackson Potter are more interested in lining the pockets of teachers, which means greater dues for the union. Chicagoans have an opportunity to stop this money train leading nowhere and should consider the written “Board Member Expectations and Conduct” before casting a vote.

First, a candidate must state how their win would ensure student success. Avoid those who give platitudes listing pie in the sky hopes and dreams. What specific changes will they push while serving their two years before yet another election? Literacy must be a top priority. Indiana, for example, recently announced that teachers will be required to obtain a literacy endorsement.

Here, the Illinois State Board of Education created a plan to raise literacy skills using the new research supporting phonics. However, the plan acts as a guide and is not mandatory. Listen carefully to how each candidate will address an ever-growing problem.

English language learners (ELL) are big business for teacher training, texts, and hiring. The question is why? Those seeking refuge in the United States should speak English. It is the language that brings us together as Americans. At the same time, cultural traditions can continue within the home, at churches, and cultural celebrations. As Teddy Roosevelt once said, “There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. … Any man who comes here … must adopt the institutions of the United States, and, therefore, he must adopt the language which is now the native tongue of our people, no matter what the several strains in our blood may be. It would not be merely a misfortune, but a crime to perpetuate differences of language in this country” (Education Week).

CPS is already failing to teach reading to children who speak the language. Having separate ELL teachers is ridiculous. Immerse those with various languages within English speaking classrooms with a focus on phonics and phonemic awareness. They can all learn together. Which then leads us into another area of expectations listed for board members. They must swear to “respect taxpayer interests by serving as a faithful protector of the school district assets.” The candidates who succinctly state how they will cut CPS costs and lower taxes will become standouts. CPS spends approximately $30,000 per student and has a budget of $9.5 billion.

Stacy Davis Gates wants more money from the city to give to teachers for “housing assistance.” In other words, Chicago is too expensive for young college graduates. In her estimation, first responders who are receiving housing assistance are no different than teachers. It is true that the lack of learning in Chicago is an emergency but not one that requires monies to help teachers live in their condos overlooking the lake. Instead of wasting even more tax dollars on CPS via the CTU, the Chicago School Board should get rid of the residency clause in teachers’ contracts. There is no reason that a person willing to take a job in a CPS school should have to live in Chicago. As long as they come to work on time, who cares where they live?

But politics plays a role in this. The board mandates teachers live in Chicago because then those teachers will buy food, clothing, sundries, go to restaurants, etc., thus being taxed at higher rates than the suburbs. But we want the best teachers teaching low-performing students. Moreover, it’s absurd to conflate the role of a firefighter with that of a teacher. Get rid of the residency mandate.

Lastly, a candidate who truly wants to change the direction of CPS and put kids first is a must for a board member. Yet, there is a proposal on the table to pay Chicago School Board members. According to Chalkbeat Chicago, “Being a CPS board member requires between 25- 30 hours of work per month, according to the board’s website, and involves attending public meetings, briefings with district officials, visiting schools, and reading hundreds of pages of documents every month.” Additionally, there are other large cities who pay their members. Denver pays their school board members $33,000 per year and in Los Angeles they get paid up to $125,000 per year. Yes, let’s pay members who willingly took a non-paid position because they work 30 hours a month and have to read documents.

Chicago is already in debt, so another tax raise would have to be proposed. Perhaps Bring Chicago School Board Members Home would have a nice ring. No doubt, paying school board members could open up a can of unethical worms, thus defeating their pledge to “[retain] the right to seek changes in such decisions through ethical and constructive channels.” Money corrupts. And for those believing that paying board members will entice those with skin in the game living on the West and South Sides, Duke and University of North Carolina studied the issue and found that incentivizing board members hoping for more economically diverse members had the opposite effect: “The researchers found states with higher salaries actually had fewer working-class people serving” (Chalkbeat Chicago).

In short, we need to have elected school board members who are willing to upset the apple cart to get CPS students literate, which should include shutting down CTU’s control and power; getting rid of the residency clause in order to encourage high performing teachers to work in the city; and ensuring that those elected and appointed are doing the job because they want what is best for kids not themselves.

Having elected Chicago School Board members is a chance to change the course of decades of failure. Become engaged and do not sit on the sidelines this November.


Erin Geary has thirty years of teaching experience in Chicago Public Schools, suburban public schools, and the Catholic Archdiocese. After retiring, Erin’s interest in writing led her start her own Substack in 2022. Her account– Common Folk 365– is where she writes unabashedly about politics, education, and culture. Her columns can be found at,, and Erin is proud to have had her work featured on Real Clear Politics and is grateful for the fabulous writers and podcasters she has met on this unexpected, exciting journey.

Comments 24

  1. Great column. I wish Chicago legal voters came out to put their mark on the future. The T. Roosevelt quote is timely and appropriate. Thank you for your credible words and thoughts!

  2. “Stacy Davis Gates wants more money from the city to give to teachers for “housing assistance.” In other words, Chicago is too expensive for young college graduates. ”


    As a single parent, I raised three kids in a robust and safe neighborhood on Catholic school salary and sent all three to Catholic grammar and high schools. For twenty three years, I managed a home in Morgan Park.

    Many, many more people did the same and with far less than me.

    I i had the money CTU/CPS teachers made with benefits I’d toss my money away.

  3. When my mom came over “onna da boat” in the early 1900’s they settled in a small town about 90 miles soutg of Chicago . No ESL of course. Just immersed into the culture of the USA. Feeling lucky to be here. Dad was a shoemaker and owned a tiny gas station supporting her, 6 sisters and a brother. Her mom had a garden and raised chickens for eggs and meat. As they grew, by appearance they looked Italian but none had an accent. Assimilation.
    The two elected will have a high and treacherous mountain to climb. You can bet the appointed members all had SDG’s stamp of approval. Maybe save taxpayer money by eliminating layer upon layer of administrators. Like higher education the budget has been crammed with folks who really contribute a marginal amount. Chicago’s kids deserve to LEARN period. Teachers have become Democrat soldiers living in the city. Time to move forward. On the resudency stuff. Follow the advice and really look to whom you are voting.

  4. The bottom line is teachers unions hinder childhood education. The steal from children, with their salaries, benefits, and now possibly want housing assistance? What’s left for “the children?” How any CPS teacher could be proud of that is beyond beyond me considering half the students can’t read or write to their grade level.

  5. So much to think about here. First, good column and on point. Erin, I know you teach, so don’t take what I say in the wrong way. I know you do it right.

    As Teddy Roosevelt once said, “There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism“.

    Hell we’ve been hyphenated for decades now. African-AMERICANS, Irish-AMERICANS, Italian-AMERICANS, Polish-AMERICANS, damn so we’ll recognize illegial-Americans. How about we drop the hyphens and are all AMERICANS !! Being AMERICANS should equalize things and eliminate a lot of what is discussed above. One step further, eliminate all those ethnic celebrations. The only government recognized celebrations should be those specific to The United States Of America. We don’t need St Patrick’s day, Juneteenth (can’t even have a real English word there), Puerto Rican Independence Day and on and on. If an individual wants to recognize their heritage so be it. But governmental influence/interference should be a no-no. Imagine, without that any specific group would have a reason to claim inferiority.

    I’m not so sure getting rid of the residency requirement would make much of a difference. Why would anyone want to go into the hell hole called Chicago to teach those irresponsible, non parented, spoiled brats. Maybe some dedicated might do it, but you’re still going to have a quality lapse. You noted Gates wants stipends for newly graduated College Snobs because the city is too expensive ??? You think the quality of teacher is going to change without a residency requirement. Just the thought of current College grads teaching the kids should be scary, especially with the crap going on at the campuses.

    Finally, paying/electing the board. No $$ unless 80% of the kids can read or write to their grade level. At least even the greedy (which all politicians are and if your stomping for votes, your a politician) might be of some kind of incentive to actually get something done. Take away the Mayoral appointments. It only adds to the corruption and incompetence, especially with the last 3 clowns we’ve had.

    Yes, get out and vote. At least there might be a chance to deadlock things if at least the 10 voted stick together.

  6. Any benefits gained by CTU in a contract negotiation benefit the CTU first. Chicago taxpayers are going to get it good and hard due to their lack of interest in the last election. I agree that the city should lift the residency requirement. Especially police and firemen. Most contribute at least one third of their income to local parochial schools to avoid having to put their children in Chicago’s historically bad schools. Yes, this includes Chicago teachers who refuse to put their kids in the same schools they teach at. One question though. If the CTU pushes for teachers to leave the city, how will they get their candidates elected in the city? I’m sure they can always find a few boxes of absentee ballots in somebodys basement. Surely…

  7. Teachers unions are designed to protect teachers from unfair labor practices, such as termination at-will mid-year to bring in a less expensive teacher related to an administrator or school board member, or if a teacher’s out of school hours political work differs from an administrator or school board member.

    They are not designed to protect students.

    For that reason alone the union should absolutely have NO power whatsoever in curriculum, student discipline, and especially not the school board! And yes, I say that as someone who was an educator for 35+ years and a union member all of those years. Fortunately, NOT at CPS, but in districts where that line: union is NOT board was respected by both sides!

  8. Erin,
    At the risk of sounding cynical, I kinda doubt it! Chicago’s apathetic voters aren’t going to do anything remotely resembling “rocking the boat!” Look at the mayor they elected, and the governor. Empty suits, with absolutely NO managerial experience, or prior job experience to rely on! I fear more “community organizers” will be elected like Obama and Johnson, as the current local and national leftist media would not dare to step out of line and actually print real news, as in speaking the truth. As Kasso would say, all those voters are dumb, deaf, and blind chumbolones. But, we can always hop….

  9. A nice column. Throwing cash at education doesn’t solve a thing (at least in Chicago). $30K per student and the students can hardly read or write in English much less do mathematics. Holding the board more responsible for the abysmal performance for CPS than the teachers might at least move the needle a bit. However, as long as you have to work with a union and political appointees on the school board you will never get any sort of accountability; the deck is stacked. Ten appointees from the mayor and 10 elected; you only need 1 elected to side with CTU and nothing gets done. Need to get all 20 to be elected and that will not happen.

  10. A very good article. I would add don’t vote for any candidate receiving campaign money from the CTU. Taking that money would put them in a conflict of interest when it comes to negotiating the next union contract.

  11. Unfortunately, the CTU has checkmated the system. Brandon, a CTU stooge, will appoint school board members who are pro CTU. CTU will run a slate of candidates for the elected positions with cash and resources that will be next to impossible to overcome. All they need is one of the ten; they will likely get the majority, if not all ten. Brandon was the final nail in the coffin for the Chicago Public School System. The City of Chicago committed suicide last April 4th when they elected the feckless buffoon as mayor. Combine that with the policies of Kim Foxx, Boss Toni and the trust fund walrus that bought the governor’s seat, and I see a very dismal future for Chicago. Detroit is our likely future. Or worse.

  12. I am not typically a naysayer in this forum, but today’s column warrants respectful disagreement. Touting an elected CPS board as a possible panacea for the ills of our public schools is rather naive. It is akin to the captain of the Titanic ordering the crew to scotch tape the damaged hull from the inside. The teachers union proposed and passed the legislation requiring elected members. Why? Because as a result of these “elections” it will undoubtedly control both sides of the bargaining table, teachers and management. They elected this puppet of a Mayor; they’ll do it again with puppet Board members.

    Moreover, I strongly support residency requirements for public employees. Many, if not all, Chicago employees are required to live in-city. As a group public employees have gradually outdistanced private sector employees in both salary and benefits. Their outlandish and ever-increasing pensions have placed a permanent fiscal choke-hold on the necks of the diminishing pool of us taxpayers who foot the bill. Given the ever-increasing costs of public employment, it is only fair that its beneficiaries reside in the jurisdiction and return as much money as possible into the local economy. Permitting teachers to join the current exodus of well paid residents would rob our neighborhoods of much needed, quality residents.

  13. I have a niece who is a CPS teacher, have not yet had the courage to speak to her about any of these issues. She lives in a Condo with a Lake view. Super curious on on her take of things. Her salary isn’t going down any time soon for sure.

    I knew a Peruvian lady for about 3 years a while back. She loves America, despises those who hate it – first gen immigrant and as with all, an amazing story. Forces her kids to watch Fox News. She positively clung to her English language teacher when she arrived to live in Chicago Heights. Inca, Spanish, Japanese and French African heritage. If you closed your eyes though and listened to her speak, you would think she was an Italian Jew (lol) – the Chicago Heights Assimilation.

    All language is oral, in the end I guess. I feel so bad for Black students in Chicago, I feel horrible for my ancestors having owned slaves, but this has nothing to do with slavery – except that the CTU are the new “overseers” 🙁

  14. The CTU elections need to be investigated. Breaking residency makes sense, but those that own in the city will take a huge hit in home value. CFD & CPD would demand to follow suit. Last one to leave Mt Greenwood should turn out the lights

  15. It has been said before by John’s readers. Election turn out will be minuscule. almost all the teachers will vote for the candidates put up by the CTU. Davis – gates Will control the board and will get whatever the union wants, The citizens of Chicago be damned. I am a realist and this is what’s going to happen. she has already Proposed many items that have nothing to do with teaching, but are social changes. So what that these cost more millions, she certainly doesn’t care about taxpayers! Hope and change anyone?

  16. Right on, Erin.
    It is never about “the children”.
    Bottom line Chicago has the lowest scores ever.
    “The children”cannot read, write, or do math.
    English is the language of this country.
    It is the language of business, opportunity and creating generational wealth
    in this country.

    Yet the focus is on money – more money. A money train to nowhere for sure!
    More money, less accountability, more taxes.
    CPS Board members should not be paid.
    Not until CPS students score 100% on testing.

  17. When I first heard about school board membership, I was shocked that that was being proposed. I think it’s a good idea. But, it doesn’t seem like one’s heart would be into the responsibility if they were to be paid.

  18. Have long thought that Teddy’s opinions about ‘hyphenated American’ bossy and counterproductive.

    I am an Irish-American. My entire family is from Ireland since 1066 or so. We live in America now. Never has been a doubt of our American patriotism, but no question about being Irish either.

    Get used to it Teddy.

Leave a Reply