Chance the Rapper hands troubled Chicago Public Schools $1 million
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Last week, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner offered two options to provide $215 million in funding to cash-strapped Chicago Public Schools (CPS).
Hours later, Chance the Rapper made an announcement. The Grammy-winning musician said he will donate $1 million to CPS to support arts programming in the district.
The rapper called his donation a "call to action" and asked the city’s business community to make donations, too.
Chance, who was born Chancelor Bennett, is unhappy with Rauner's solutions for funding Chicago's public schools. The rapper met with Rauner last week but described the meeting as “unsuccessful.” Chance has since criticized the governor.
“Governor Rauner can use his executive power to help get Chicago’s children the resources they need to fulfill their God-given right to learn,” Chance said.
Chance Critical Of Politicians
CPS officials have quietly celebrated Chance. They like that he uses his role as a celebrity to discuss the district’s money troubles. He has a history of speaking out against the government. He has even criticized Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whom his father worked for at City Hall.
Last year, Rauner vetoed a $215 million funding bill for Chicago Public Schools. The bill would have eased the district's enormous pension burden. A pension is money that goes to workers during their retirement years. The workers save money while they are employed. At the same time, the employer matches that money.
Chance said the governor pulled back on an “important commitment.” He said the governor pledged to help Chicago Public Schools but has not followed through.
Rauner's office has offered two paths of action to provide the funding the schools need. Both options require action from lawmakers, and both may be difficult to pass. The governor and the state senate have not been able to work well together for two years. The governor is a Republican, and most of the lawmakers are Democrats.
Rauner's first option includes passing a law that would allow Chicago's mayor to tap into a city tax fund to cover the cost. The other option ties the money to the state’s pension retirement program. Rauner has wanted to reform this system for a long time.
Options Would Take Pressure Off Governor
The two options are a way for Rauner to respond to public pressure while also putting the burden elsewhere. The first idea makes coming up with the money the problem of state lawmakers, the mayor and other city officials. The second idea would get Rauner an item from his wish list: pension reform. But it would require Democrats to change the current retirement system in Illinois, and many do not want to do this.
The governor said the city must take responsibility for what he says is years of mismanagement at CPS.
The school district does not like the governor’s plan at all.
CPS spokesperson Emily Bittner said that by denying funding to Chicago students, Rauner is continuing a state funding system that discriminates based on race. More than 80 percent of students in Chicago Public Schools are African-American or Hispanic.
Bittner said the governor's plan "actually demands that Chicago students do more to get the same funding that every other student in the state of Illinois is entitled to receive.”
"Unequal Funding System"
She added that Chicago residents are paying $342 million more in taxes this year to support their schools. “It’s past time for the state of Illinois to end the racial discrimination that is creating a separate and unequal funding system,” she said.
Adam Collins, a spokesperson for the mayor, agreed that Rauner’s latest proposals are not a solution at all.
“His plan to fix the fact that Chicago taxpayers pay twice for teacher pensions is to have them pay three times instead,” Collins said. “It’s past time for the governor to step up, as Chicago’s taxpayers already have, and end the state’s separate and unequal funding for Chicago students.”
Without the $215 million, CPS has made moves to cut costs. The district announced it may make cuts to summer school and shorten the school year by about three weeks. This would save about $96 million. However, CPS officials hope it doesn't come to that. CPS hopes the state or courts will come up with a solution first.
School That Hosted News Conference Also Benefits
Chance the Rapper held a news conference last week at the Westcott Elementary School. This highly rated school educates students who are almost exclusively African-American and poor. In addition to his $1 million donation, Chance donated $10,000 to Westcott.
Westcott’s population of roughly 400 students stands to lose about $75,000 this year, according to the school district.
Westcott’s principal, Monique Dockery, said that cut means the school will have to drop a variety of programs. The cuts could affect after-school programs, math and reading tutoring, and professional development.
“I don’t have a lot of nickel and dime kind of people working,” Dockery said. “They love the children.”