Lawmakers to return to Springfield next week for budget, school district map

SPRINGFIELD — Community advocates aren’t happy with the second revision of a map laying out 20 proposed districts for Chicago’s upcoming elected school board — and the clock is ticking for legislators to approve it before adjourning the spring legislative session.

Lawmakers have until July 1 to clear the new map. But they are already taking longer than they had hoped to wrap up the spring session.

The Illinois General Assembly had planned to adjourn on Friday, but Democratic leaders blew that self-imposed deadline, failing to reach agreement on the state budget. Health care costs for undocumented immigrants was the key sticking point.

So state House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch and Senate President Don Harmon announced Friday that members of both chambers would return to Springfield on Wednesday to finish the work for the spring session.

That will include the state budget and the elected school board map.

With parents, teachers and community advocates complaining in separate hearings this week in the House and Senate, the map is expected to change once again, according to a source close to the negotiations. The goal is to vote on a final version next week.

Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch (center) answers reporters’ questions at a Springfield news conference last year with Gov. J.B. Pritzker (left) and state Senate President Don Harmon (right).

Illinois Democrats last week released their first version of the map, proposing seven districts with pluralities of white residents, seven with pluralities of Black residents and six with majorities of Latino residents. That map was crafted based on U.S. Census figures.

But some advocates wanted the map to represent the Chicago Public Schools student population — which is 11% white, 36% Black and 47% Latino — not the city’s population.

A second map released this week was updated to include seven majority-Latino districts, seven majority-Black districts and six majority-white districts.

But the changes aren’t enough for some advocates, including Eli Brottman, a consultant who has testified at each hearing. Brottman on Friday argued at a House hearing that there still aren’t enough Latino majority districts, communities of color are in some cases split apart in certain districts, and there are no Asian plurality districts.

“This is a great concern to me and many others because so many people have taken time to provide feedback, to submit maps, and it feels as if the General Assembly is not using that feedback,” Brottman said.

“This is a situation where more time is simply needed. Time to get feedback on all of the proposals that have been submitted by various community members and stakeholders. And time for there to be transparency in this process.”

Valerie Leonard, of the Illinois African Americans for Equitable Redistricting, also testified that the district map breaks up communities. She said the current map would pull people away from their wards and into a school district where they wouldn’t be able to make an impact on the outcome of an election because their area is too small a part of the district.

“I think they might be separated from their wards, which is their community, you know, their area of influence into another district, which could be culturally different, definitely have different concerns as different communities. And that was really, really difficult for us to stomach,” Leonard said.

“And the chances of your being heard if you’re in one of those little pockets are nil, so you’re effectively disenfranchising a number of people around the city, regardless of their race or their culture.”

The Chicago Teachers Union is among a coalition of groups, including Pilsen Alliance, Raise Your Hand, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization and the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, among others, who have created their own proposed map. They are urging lawmakers to revise the current map to look more like their proposal, which they say better reflects the actual population CPS serves.

The elected school board will begin serving in 2025, with 10 members to be selected in the November 2024 election, and another 10 members and a school board president appointed by Mayor Brandon Johnson.

Mayor Brandon Johnson delivers his inaugural address during the city of Chicago’s inauguration ceremony at Credit Union 1 Arena on Monday.

Mayor Brandon Johnson delivers his inaugural address during the city of Chicago’s inauguration ceremony at Credit Union 1 Arena on Monday.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

Also on Friday, and with less friction than in the Illinois Senate, the Illinois House approved a measure that will allow businesses to create multi-capacity bathrooms open to all genders — with a 63-41 vote. On Thursday, one GOP state senator warned that such bathrooms would spark violence.

The House also cleared a measure that will establish clear language that prohibits price gouging of generic and off-patent drugs and also empowers the Illinois attorney general’s office to pursue legal action and seek remedies.

Both measures now await Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signature.

Under the updated schedule released Friday, the Senate will convene Wednesday and Thursday, and the House Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

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