A week after Mayor Brandon Johnson sent Illinois Senate President Don Harmon a letter urging him to support the election of only 10 of 21 school board seats this November, the Oak Park Democrat on Friday filed legislation with the mayor’s preferred plan.
The new Senate measure, sponsored by Harmon, includes ethics provisions the Senate president requested last year, including who can serve as a board member. Harmon had publicly said he looked forward to getting “clear direction” from Johnson after an unresolved dispute over how many seats would be elected this fall.
That direction came last week in a letter Johnson sent to Harmon — putting his full support behind the Chicago Teachers Union-backed plan of electing 10 seats in November and letting the mayor appoint the other 11. That would leave Johnson in control of Chicago Public Schools nearly through the end of his term.
The Senate measure was filed on Friday afternoon.
“I appreciate Mayor Johnson’s clear direction as to his vision for an elected, representative school board for Chicago,” Harmon said in a statement. “We have drafted and now filed Mayor Johnson’s plan so that it can be reviewed by lawmakers and the public in the weeks ahead.”
The 2021 law that created an elected school board for Chicago included the election of 10 board members in November 2024 and the appointment of 11 board members — including the board president — by the mayor. The first elected board members would serve four-year terms, and voters would be able to choose who should fill the appointed seats in 2026 to create a fully elected board in January 2027.
But after months of wrangling over what the actual districts of the map would look like, the Illinois House and Senate in November also reopened their debate on the election timeline.
An amendment filed by Harmon during the veto session last year would have allowed the board to be fully elected as soon as this fall by splitting up memberships to two and four-year terms.
A competing House Democrat plan backed by the CTU included 10 elected and 11 appointed board members in 2024, but with two members residing in the same “nested” district.
Johnson last week sent Harmon a letter saying the 2021 school board legislation “clearly communicated to interested parties the timeline and structure of the initial elections, thereby informing their plans for participation.”
Johnson was an organizer for the CTU when Springfield passed the original legislation. The union had pushed for a fully elected board as soon as possible but compromised with a transition period that Harmon supported.
But the two sides flipped their positions last year — the CTU pushed back when Harmon proposed full elections this year. Neither the union nor Harmon have publicly explained the switch. The CTU has said its opposition does not have to do with a lack of available funding for 21 races.
But the CTU’s main political action committee had $81,554.81 cash on hand as of the latest filing period in December, filings show. The union spent more than $1.8 million on Johnson’s campaign for mayor.