Chicago families on the South and West sides were less likely to have access to information about their Local School Councils, compared with their North Side neighbors, according to a new analysis about the 2021-22 school year.
The report, released this week by advocacy organization Raise Your Hand, also found that most schools — 61% — had at least one parent vacancy on their Local School Councils, or LSCs. These school-based elected bodies, made up of parents, other community representatives, and students, can make school-level decisions, such as evaluating and selecting principals and voting on the annual campus budget.
The findings suggest that white and more affluent parents are more likely to have access to accurate LSC information and LSCs without parent vacancies. On top of the neighborhood disparities, schools with mostly Black student bodies were less likely to have updated information online about their LSCs, compared with schools citywide. They were also more likely to have at least three parent vacancies on their LSCs.
Last year, following LSC elections with significant voter turnout, more than 1,400 vacancies remained, mostly on the South and West sides, Chalkbeat found at the time.
“Vacancies make it impossible for the schools that need LSCs the most to have effective LSCs,” the just-released Raise Your Hand report said. “This means student needs are ignored, budgets are cut, and more.”
On the city’s North Side, schools were more likely to list basic information on their websites about their LSC, the report found. That information includes a mention of the LSC’s existence, meeting times, agendas, minutes, a list of current members, and contact information for those members.
For example, an average of 67% of schools across the Far North, North, and Northwest sides had LSC meeting times listed on their websites. In comparison, meeting times were listed for less than a quarter of schools, on average, in neighborhoods across the South and West sides, according to the report.
“This lack of transparency and accessibility is unacceptable and leaves parents feeling frustrated and powerless,” the report said.
Other findings include:
- About one third of all schools have an LSC meeting time posted online, while the same is true for 14% of schools with student bodies that are at least 90% Black.
- 32% of all schools have three or more parent vacancies. The same is true for 36% of schools on the South and West sides, and 23% of schools on the North sides as well as the Loop.
- 42% of schools with more than 90% of Black students have three or more parent vacancies.
Raise Your Hand said that school websites have not changed even after they raised some of their findings with Chicago Public Schools “months ago.” The group has urged CPS to ensure websites have updated information, including meeting times and locations, a list of current LSC members, and contact information for the LSC.
After Raise Your Hand members revealed some of the study’s findings at a Wednesday Chicago Board of Education meeting, Board President Jianan Shi said the district “has to do better.” Shi is the former executive director of Raise Your Hand.
In a statement, CPS spokesperson Evan Moore noted that the district saw a record-breaking 6,145 people apply for LSC positions last school year. He touted district efforts to raise awareness about LSCs, including roughly 100 “engagement sessions.”
Still, Moore acknowledged the need to improve and said officials are reviewing Raise Your Hand’s study.
“As a District, we are committed to continuing to work to improve awareness and access to this important democratic process,” Moore said.
Reema Amin is a reporter covering Chicago Public Schools. Contact Reema at firstname.lastname@example.org.