Remembering Nancy Brandt
By Clare McGuire
Nancy Brandt was the type of informed citizen and voter that all Chicagoans should strive to be. She took her work on the LWV Chicago Education Committee seriously and refused to be put off by bureaucracy, delays, or apathy.
Her favorite saying, that she got better and more up-to-date financial information from her condo board than she did from the Board of Education, was always uttered with a little laugh, but we also knew that she was serious: she knew the Board of Education could and should do better when it came to financial transparency. She had high standards for the Board, as well as other governing bodies in the city and the state, and wasn't afraid to communicate what they were to anyone (including the Board members themselves).
We cannot duplicate her intense historical knowledge of public finance in Illinois, and we will miss her indefatigable energy when it came to making our Chicago Public Schools more transparent to taxpayers and families.
Overall, we will just miss Nancy, but we'll forge on in her memory, asking for the same good government practices and transparency that she would have wanted.
Above, Nancy is pictured with her husband, Jim Brandt.
A Personal Tribute to Nancy Brandt
By Dorothy Strang
A year and a half ago, when I first met Nancy, she was already frail. At least her body was frail. But not her mind, as I quickly learned after joining the Evening Education Committee. And certainly not her determination to make Chicago Public School financing at least a little more equitable, a little more fair, and a lot more transparent.
One Wednesday in October 2018, I accompanied her to a CPS sub-committee meeting on budget and finance, where she had scheduled herself to deliver a message from the LWV asking the Board to make financial accounting records easily available to the public. She prepared me, with a laugh, to expect little company in the room, “budget and finance” not holding a high place in the public’s interest, even among active school reformers. But Nancy, through her career in banking and corporate philanthropy, knew better. She knew that underpinning all other reform has to be a fair financial foundation. That October morning, in an almost empty room, to a row of School Board officials sitting high above her, Nancy firmly delivered her well-researched request for fiscal transparency. Nothing frail about her.
This past spring and summer, as hospital stays grew more frequent, Nancy’s commitment to her committee’s mission never flagged. We continued to be peppered with emails from her, forwarding news from the city and the state about funding for schools. For November’s meeting, the last she chaired, Nancy prepared an 8-page packet so that we could follow and take notes--as always--on her presentation of the following topics:
State legislative actions/inaction to find revenue for Evidence-Based Funding of schools;
Financial implications of the contract provisions gained in the 2019 Chicago Teachers Union strike;
- A deep dive into the emended CPS Interactive Budget for Fiscal Year 2020.
Throughout the meeting, Nancy’s grasp of details never flagged, nor did her commitment to the pursuit of fiscal fairness for Chicago’s schools.
Nancy’s body may have been frail, but right to the end her mind and spirit were fierce.
Nancy Brandt and LWV Chicago
After participating in Leagues in Dayton, Ohio; Madison, Indiana; and Highland Park, Illinois, Nancy came to LWV Chicago in 2014. Leader and mentor, Nancy served on the LWV Chicago Board and led State of the City events that brought journalists together to review the City Council-City Hall divide and education experts to discuss options for improving city schools.
A champion of transparency and accountability, Nancy spearheaded efforts to create an independent finance and audit committee for the Board of Education and, with Rae Sokolow, produced a formal League study on the pros and cons of an elected school board. In recognition for her long-time service and accomplishments to the League of Women Voters, Nancy received the Greensfelder-Elam award in 2017.
With sadness, LWV Chicago bids farewell to Nancy Brandt, who died on Sunday, December 8. A memorial service will be held in her honor on January 25 at 2 p.m. at St. Pauls UCC, 2335 N. Orchard Street.