MAY 11, 2023
Chicago residents blast proposed school board maps for leaving out Hispanic community
On the left are proposed school board districts for the north half of Chicago and on the right are proposed school board districts for the south half of Chicago. [Illinois Senate Democrats]
Several Chicago residents spoke out against proposed maps for the Chicago Elected School Board at a Senate hearing Tuesday night saying lawmakers ignored requests for a map that represented the city’s minority community.
House and Senate Democrats released the first draft of proposed maps for the 21-member Chicago Elected School Board, which will take effect in 2024 when 10 district members are elected, while the remaining 10 districts will have their members elected in 2026 along with a 21st at-large member. Lawmakers are expected to pass a final version of the map by next Friday.
On Tuesday afternoon, a special Senate committee on the maps held a public hearing to solicit feedback from residents, who largely expressed frustration about the initial proposal.
“I see that these hearings are being done, but it’s like [you’re] not listening and prior to me, people have said: ‘Hey, in the Latino community, we have half of the population, meaning that half of these seats should be Latinos,” said Baltazar Enriquez, president of the Little Village Community Council.
The proposed maps create seven majority-Black districts, five Hispanic-majority districts, two Hispanic-influence districts (meaning Hispanics are the strongest racial group but not a majority) and five majority-white districts.
While the districts are drawn to represent the voting population of the city, advocates said it should take into account the demographics of the students in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). CPS data shows 46.5 percent of students are Hispanic, 35.8 percent are Black, and 11 percent are white.
Blair Flowers from Kids First Chicago said lawmakers didn’t listen to the feedback they received in several hearings over the last month.
“The Black and Latino population are both at risk for being severely underrepresented compared to their share of the student population,” Flowers said. “Everything we measure is somehow based on the number of students: how much money schools get from CPS, how much money CPS gets from the state of Illinois or the federal government.”
Flowers said the first draft of the map was “unacceptable to the Latino communities.”
“It does a good job at representing the CPS Black student population but falls short of representing the Latino counterparts,” Flowers said. “This committee should work to create at least two more primary Latino districts while maintaining the seven primary Black districts.”
Dulce Arroyo from Palenque LSNA in Logan Square said the proposal breaks up the Latino community rather than keeping it together as a community of interest.
“We need a map that doesn’t break neighborhoods and neighborhood schools into pieces,” Arroyo said.
One of the proposed districts that raised the most concerns was labeled as District K on the proposal. The proposed district is 59 percent Hispanic but stretches 79 blocks from Division Street in the downtown area to Marquette Road in Marquette Park. Jaime Growth Searle, a Marquette Park resident from The Southwest Collective, said it groups together “fragmented communities” split up by the map and includes a vast wealth difference, grouping together wealthy River North residents and poorer Southwest Side residents in the same district.
“I’m reflecting on my own experience in corporate America within the Loop and the River North area, and I remember all too well that this is a group of very wealthy parents that will likely not collaborate in community with the rest of the folks,” Searle said.
Political consultant Frank Calabrese told The Daily Line districts that stretch from downtown into the South Side are trying to establish minority majorities.
“What’s happening is you’re diluting the downtown population to use those people that live downtown to create minority districts outside downtown,” Calabrese said.
Calabrese said it would be nearly “impossible” to make half the districts majority Hispanic as some advocates have asked for.
“Because of how the Hispanic population is more integrated into Chicago than the Black population, which tends to be more segregated, it’s harder to make Latino-majority districts,” Calabrese said. “If you wanted to make more Hispanic districts, you would have to make a map that would be significantly more ugly looking.”
Calabrese added that while Hispanics make up most CPS seats, their voting population is less than the city’s white voting population.
Chicago Ald. Jason Ervin (28), who represents the West Side on the City Council, suggested lawmakers follow the new ward map boundaries because they’ve already met legal standards.
Some wards were kept together, Calabrese noted, including the influential 13th Ward run by Ald. Marty Quinn (13) and former House Speaker Mike Madigan’s (D-Chicago) political empire.
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