(The Center Square) – The sponsor of an Illinois House bill creating an elected school board for Chicago Public Schools anticipates residents who are not citizens to be allowed to cast ballots in school board elections.

State Rep. Delia Ramirez, D-Chicago, passed House Bill 2908 on Thursday. If passed by the Senate and signed by the governor, the measure would create an elected school board for Chicago Public Schools. She said Chicago is the only district of the state’s more than 850 school districts that does not have an elected school board and her constituents demand it.

Chicago Public Schools are under the purview of the City of Chicago with a board appointed by the mayor.

“I thank my colleagues for again putting forward a bill to create an elected school board in Chicago," Ramirez said in a statement after the vote. "An appointed school board is the antithesis of democratic representation, and it’s long past time to fix that in Chicago. It’s common sense that when parents and community leaders are at the top of the decision-making tree, school districts will arrive at better solutions for our kids." 

House Speaker Chris "Emanuel" Welch, D-Chicago, praised the passage of the bill. 

“I am very proud of Rep. Ramirez and the caucus for getting this important reform through,” Welch said. “I also applaud the advocates who have been pushing for this reform for years to help create a more equitable and representative Chicago Board of Education. Like every other city in Illinois, parents and community members deserve to have a seat at the table when it comes to their school district.”

The bill divides Chicago into 20 electoral districts with the 21st seat at-large to be the board’s president.

"Qualified persons would need to be a U.S. citizen, registered voter and be resident of the city and the electoral district for at least one year immediately preceding their election," Welch's office said. 

When asked about undocumented residents’ ability to cast votes in school board races, during debate Ramirez pointed to state Sen. Celina Villanueva’s Senate Bill 1565 that would allow that.

Villanueva’s bill is in the Senate Executive - Elections subcommittee. No hearing date has been set. It would provide that the Illinois State Board of Education to create a voter registration affidavit exclusively for people who are not citizens to vote in school board elections only.

School board elections “are considered non-State elections and are not subject to the citizenship requirement” of the Illinois Constitution, the bill states.

The person must reside within the boundaries of the school district and request an affidavit for each school board election. The registration form must also include a notice to the person that any information provided to the school board may be obtained by federal immigration officials and could impact any application for naturalization.

Staff Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience and hosts the WMAY Morning Newsfeed out of Springfield.