July 26, 2019
The newly appointed Chicago Public Schools Board of Education has made several changes to the meeting structure at the monthly board meetings and, for the first time, livestreamed the board meeting held on July 24, 2019. This was the second board meeting for the seven new board members appointed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
The new board has expressed its commitment to making Board of Education meetings more open and transparent. Board President Miguel del Valle announced at his first board meeting in June that in an effort to improve transparency and community engagement, the Board would begin: discussing public agenda items openly and voting on the public agenda items before moving into closed session; livestreaming board meetings; creating three committees that will meet in the community rather than downtown; holding periodic board meetings around the city and after business hours; posting policy changes a month before the board votes on them; and translating meetings into Spanish.
The previous CPS board rarely discussed agenda items or explained their policy decisions at public meetings. Under prior practice, the board voted on public agenda items following a closed executive session, typically with no discussion or debate.
The new meeting format now includes a portion of the meeting dedicated to the discussion of public agenda items and a vote on the public agenda items prior to moving into a closed executive session.
The Board of Education is also exploring options to improve the public comment process, including the possibility of a lottery system. Currently 60 members of the public are allowed to address the board at each meeting, but the speaker slots typically fill up within a matter of minutes.
The Civic Federation has called on Chicago Public Schools to livestream its board meetings and improve transparency over the past several years. The Civic Federation recognizes these new reforms as a significant step forward for Chicago Public Schools and commends the Chicago Board of Education for improving public access to meetings and making a commitment to transparent and substantive discussions. Livestreaming meetings online brings CPS in line with many other school districts in the State and around the U.S., as well as other major local governments in Chicago including the City of Chicago and Cook County. The livestream can be found on board meeting days at the District’s YouTube page.