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A diverse range of potential candidates are preparing for Chicago’s inaugural school board elections this autumn

Che Smith talks in an interview (Via Elena Baker/Getty Images)

A Grammy-winning rapper, progressive activists, and a leader of an afterschool squash program are among the diverse mix of potential candidates preparing for Chicago’s first school board elections this autumn.

Chicago, the third-largest city in America, has traditionally had a mayor-appointed board overseeing its public schools. It took years of advocacy and political disputes to reach this point of transitioning to an elected board, which is expected to bring its own challenges.

The upcoming November elections mark a historic moment, but explaining the multi-year transition to voters has proven difficult. Special interest groups are closely watching developments, and there are uncertainties about how the new 21-member board, three times larger than the current one, will effectively govern.

“This isn’t just about politics; it’s about a movement,” said rapper Che “Rhymefest” Smith, one of many hopefuls who have begun fundraising efforts. “Everyone in this city shares a responsibility to the children who will benefit from this change.”

Che Smith looks over signatures (Via Elena Baker/Getty Images)

Potential candidates are currently collecting signatures and working to educate voters about these inaugural elections. Many of them are parents, advocates, or former educators venturing into politics for the first time, facing challenges like building name recognition and fundraising.

Although the legislature approved an elected board in 2021, finalizing details such as political boundaries didn’t occur until March. The board won’t be fully elected until 2027.

Chicago residents, divided into 10 large districts, will vote for board members who will start their terms next year. The mayor will appoint 10 additional members from smaller subdistricts and a citywide president. By 2026, voters will elect all 21 members, who will eventually serve four-year terms.

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