Democracy in Chicago? It’s complicated.

“He’s a proxy,” CTU President Karen Lewis said of Claypool.

When the members of the Chicago Teachers Union voted overwhelmingly to express no confidence in CPS CEO Forrest Claypool they were actually voting no confidence in the Mayor.

CTU President Karen Jennings Lewis made that clear when she spoke yesterday at the City Club.

“He’s a proxy,” Lewis said of Claypool during a press conference that followed her City Club speech.

Why not a vote on the Mayor?

“What could we do about that right now?” said Lewis.

For those readers who live in functioning democracies this may seem confusing.

The CTU members voted against someone doesn’t stand for election and didn’t vote this past week against somebody who will.

Maybe he will.

In Chicago we are permitted to vote for people who run the water district but we are forbidden to vote for the people who run our schools.

If you live in a functioning democracy, you may find that odd.

So the teachers’ no confidence vote is symbolic.

Symbols can be powerful things.

I remember one year in my old suburban district when, quite out of the blue, a kindergarten teacher stood up at a general membership meeting of the local and moved for a vote of no confidence in the superintendent.

Another teacher jumped up and seconded the motion.

We were always a democratic union local and although we were all taken by surprise, the motion was moved and seconded. A vote was taken and the membership approved the motion unanimously.

The board of education had no immediate response.

Except at the end of the year the superintendent’s contract was not renewed.

Of course, our little suburban district had an elected school  board.

Not so in Chicago.

In a couple of years we will get to vote on Claypool’s boss.

Not by proxy.


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