Voters interviewed at a South Loop polling place on Tuesday said they went to the polls in the city election because they are worried about public education.
Voters said they strongly support opening more public schools and called for an end to the move toward charter schools.
Cook County Board President and former 4th Ward alderman Toni Preckwinkle stopped by the polling place in Jones College Prep and talked about Chicago Public Schools. As a former teacher, Preckwinkle taught high school history classes in a variety of schools — public, private and parochial.
Preckwinkle, who has been county board president since 2010, said parents are going to put their children in the best school they can. This has had a negative effect on public schools because they lose the most engaged parents and the most determined students, she added.
“It has gotten much more problematic for neighborhood schools to be successful,” Preckwinkle said. “We have to put more energy into our neighborhood schools where most of our kids go.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, in a poll completed before the election, nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said they disapproved of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handling of the public school system.
In 2013, Emanuel closed 50 public schools, and he has encouraged the opening of charter schools. Emanuel is seeking a second four-year term. He needs 50 percent of the vote plus 1 to avoid a run-off election.
Emanuel is running against Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, 2nd Ward Ald. Robert Fioretti, community activist William “Dock” Walls and businessman Willie Wilson.
Jon Proj, a voter interviewed at the polling place at Jones College Prep, said the city should devote more resources to education.
“There are a lot of young people in different parts of the city that don’t have the same amount of resources that they have in other neighborhoods,” Proj said. “How can we expect our children to be evaluated on the same level? It doesn’t make sense.”
Melissa Potter, a Columbia College Chicago professor, also said she was concerned about the direction the education system is going. Potter, who cast her ballot while pushing her child in a stroller, said she voted for Garcia because he has a much better understanding of the city’s underprivileged residents than Emanuel.
“Chuy has a lot of policies that want to help young children and help people move up into the middle class,” Potter said. “I think our education system here in Chicago is a wreck. I am opposed to private education, and I think all public schools should have equal funding.”
Potter said she felt strongly about the fact that the public school system is divided based on money.
“The Parent Teacher Associations should be required to pool their money so that there aren’t school districts that have more or less based on money, especially with unemployment and where it is at today,” she said.