In 1995, community leaders led by Illinois Supreme Court Justice Seymour Simon, founded what was known then as the Chicago Debate Commission.
At our inception in 1995, we truly were a Commission, formed by a group of business and civic leaders who were passionate about finding a way to bring the benefits of debate into Chicago Public Schools. Since partnering with CPS in 1997 to launch the Chicago Debate League, we have grown the League from just five high schools on the south side, to over 85 schools, including middle and high schools. We’ve become the largest and most competitive policy urban debate league in the country, and a national model for other urban leagues.
The dramatic growth of our League has been due in large part to the financial support of the private sector that began in 2008. Since then, the organization has doubled the level of student participation, added a middle school league, and nearly doubled the number of participating schools. Through a concerted effort to establish debate programs in high poverty schools, participation among students from those schools has grown substantially since 2008.
In 2018, after twenty years of operating as the Chicago Debate Commission, the organization changed its name to Chicago Debates. The change reflected the incredible transformation the organization has undergone since its establishment in 1995, and represents an exciting new chapter. As the organization moves into a new era as Chicago Debates, we remain grounded in our history and focused on continuing to bring the transformational power of debate to Chicago schools who need it most.