The following can be attributed to Colleen K. Connell, executive director of the ACLU of Illinois:
The Lightfoot campaign’s email to Chicago Public School teachers urging them to offer extra credit to students as an incentive to volunteer on the Mayor’s re-election campaign is inappropriately coercive and raises First Amendment concerns. The Supreme Court has made clear that government officials cannot use their office or power to coerce participation or to punish for lack of participation in political campaigns. Federal courts affirmed that principle in an ACLU of Illinois case (O’Hare Truck Service, Incorporated v. City of Northlake).
Because the Mayor has the ultimate authority over the Chicago schools, teachers may feel coercion in this ask from the Mayor’s campaign or fear negative consequences for lack of participation.
It is striking that Mayor Lightfoot presented herself four years ago as a candidate who would eschew the old corrupt patronage ways of Chicago politics. Now her campaign employs practices that harken back to the worst days of the Chicago political machine.
To be clear, this is now Mayor Lightfoot’s responsibility. It cannot be swept away by statements from subordinates in her campaign. The Mayor should personally and publicly renounce this infraction in strong, explicit language, making clear that no one in Chicago should feel compelled to participate in her re-election campaign. That is what is necessary in this moment.