DFER-IL Endorses Chicago's Champions of Education

Blogs, Letters & Testimonials

February 6, 2015


Democrats for Education Reform – Illinois (DFER-IL) has made several endorsements for the 2015 municipal elections. The candidates were evaluated on their responses to a questionnaire, as well as their public statements and city council votes.

The candidates we’re supporting in this election are champions of our public school children and they are fighting for higher standards in the classroom, accountability across the board and the assurance that every student – regardless of zipcode or income – has the opportunity to receive a high-quality education. Our students and our city deserve real progressive leadership from elected officials who will fight to expand pre-k, promote diversity in our best schools and push back against the special interests who want to inject politics into our school board.

– Rebeca Nieves-Huffman, DFER-IL state director


The endorsed candidates are:

Alderman JoAnn Thompson (16th)

Alderman Thompson has been fighting for Englewood in the city council since 2007. She has been a strong supporter of the longer school day in Chicago, more quality options for kids and expanding access to pre-k. She will continue to put her constituents first when it comes to improving education, eradicating gun violence and creating jobs. Her main opponent, Alderman Toni Foulkes, calls herself a progressive but voted against a plan to give thousands of children access to early childhood education. The 16th ward will be well served keeping Thompson in charge.

Alderman Emma Mitts (37th)

Alderman Mitts has been a tireless advocate for her community.  She believes that all students deserve a high-quality education, which is why she championed increasing diversity in Chicago’s best schools and expanding early education options for low-income children. Voters of the 37th ward need her continued leadership in increasing educational opportunities for families on the west side

Michael Diaz, candidate 45th ward

Michael Diaz is a champion for Chicago’s school children and if elected, will bring much needed progressive values to the city council. He supports the full school day and year and believes in promoting high-quality education options for our kids – regardless of background or zip code. Diaz also will fight for increased accountability across the board to ensure that every school is held to a higher standard. His opponent, Alderman John Arena, has given new meaning to the term “political pandering” in his first term in office. The self-proclaimed “progressive” voted against expanding early childhood education and was more interested in standing on a soapbox than he was helping low-income children succeed. Diaz is the new leader that the 45th ward deserves.

Alderman Will Burns (4th)

Will Burns is a true progressive who believes that regardless of life circumstances, nothing should stand in the way of every child’s right to a good education. Like President Obama, he believes in boosting classroom standards and expanding access to early education. He has fought for better jobs, safer streets and led the fight for a higher minimum wage. He is a leader in the Democratic Party in Chicago, and is strongly endorsed for re-election.

Alderman Michelle Harris (8th)

Alderman Harris believes in increasing high-quality education options for the kids in her ward – more seats at selective enrollment schools for African-Americans, more IB or STEM schools, or even more high-performing public charters. She knows that education at an early age is the key to success. That’s why she voted to increase access to pre-k services for thousands of low-income students in Chicago. If re-elected, Alderman Harris will continue to advocate on behalf of every child.

Alderman Patrick O’Connor (40th)

Alderman O’Connor has a proven track record of leadership on education in the City Council. For many years, he served as chair of the Committee on Education, directly working to improve Chicago’s schools by supporting early childhood education and quality options for children and their families. He also worked in Springfield to create Local School Councils, which give Chicago parents and community members more say in how our schools are run. Very few have the variety of experience in education policy that Alderman O’Connor has and he is strongly endorsed by Democrats for Education Reform. His opponent, Dianne Daleiden does not offer any meaningful policies to improve education, and will not hold schools accountable for ensuring that our kids succeed.

Alderman Howard Brookins (21st)

Alderman Brookins has provided a critical voice in the City Council as an outspoken advocate for the residents of the 21st ward. While serving as the head of the Black Caucus, he has been one of the most prominent leaders in fighting for jobs and economic development on the South side of Chicago. Ald. Brookins is committed to making quality investments in education like expanding school options in his community. The 21st ward will be well served with another four years of his leadership.

Alderman Walter Burnett (27th)

Alderman Burnett has advocated for the West Side of Chicago exceptionally well in the City Council. While he’s known for his sense of humor, there is nothing he takes more seriously than the education of Chicago’s children and will continue to fight for more selective enrollment schools, charter schools, IB schools and STEM schools in his ward. Furthermore, he has been a leader in pushing for increased diversity in Chicago’s highest performing schools, a problem we will be tackling in the coming months. His opponent, Gabe Beukinga, lacks the leadership qualities that the residents of the 27th ward need.

Elise Doody-Jones, candidate 32nd ward

Elise Doody-Jones will be a passionate representative of the hard-working families of the 32nd ward, while avoiding the impotent criticism often touted as productive by her opponent, current Alderman Scott Waguespack. She knows the community, brick-by-brick, and understands the urgent need to improve the quality of education our students are receiving – from cradle to career. Her opponent often prefers the bright spotlight of the television camera then the crucible of tough decisions. The Alderman’s opposition to the city’s plan to give more than 2,600 preschoolers education opportunities otherwise denied to them highlights his preference for media attention and political opposition rather than results. The 32nd ward deserves a progressive, independent voice, and Doody-Jones will do more to affect change for her community, while focusing less on her media profile than the incumbent.

 James Dukes, candidate 17th ward

James Dukes knows that a high quality education is the most important thing we can give Chicago’s kids and he will make sure that this a top priority if elected to City Council. His vision for the 17th Ward includes expanding access to great schools and boosting graduation rates. Bishop Dukes is a passionate advocate for his community and has consistently shown great leadership when it comes to keeping our neighborhoods safe from violent crime. He is the best candidate to represent the people of Chicago’s 17th Ward. While we appreciate Glenda Franklin’s viewpoints on education based on her questionnaire responses, Duke’s active in role in advocating for more quality public school options over the years makes him the clear choice.

Alderman John Pope (10th)

Alderman Pope has stood up for the children of Chicago time and again by championing initiatives that ensure a quality education for all. He knows that early childhood education is critical to future academic success, which is why he voted to expand pre-K to 2,600 low-income Chicago kids by issuing social impact bonds. Pope also has been a key supporter of the Chicago STAR Scholarship program, which provides scholarships in the form of tuition to qualifying high school graduates, making sure they can earn their associate degree without the burden of out of pocket costs. His commitment to improving Chicago’s schools makes him the best candidate to represent the people of the 10th ward.

Since 2012, DFER-IL has been working with elected officials, community groups, parents and students to build support for an education reform agenda in the city of Chicago. DFER also established an Independent Expenditure Committee to support elected officials and candidates who support their goals, and hold accountable those officials and candidates who oppose necessary reforms to CPS.