Once again, Chicago students have taken to the streets to protest the school-funding catastrophe in the city in spite of the 90-degree heat. The students blocked the door to the James R. Thompson Center, carried signs, and chanted “Save Our Schools” to grab the attention of Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.
The rally began on Facebook where students urged their classmates to join in, which led to roughly 200 students cutting their classes and heading downtown. The participants also circled Chicago City Hall to let Mayor Rahm Emanuel know that he is more concerned with tourism than in fighting for CPS funding, reports CBS Chicago.
Sean Valentin, a junior at Lakeview High School, cut his 8th-period music theory class to participate in the march, saying that although this class was his favorite, he believed it would probably be cut next year if something doesn’t change.
Not only might music theory be taken out of the curriculum, but school doors may not be opened at all in the fall if lawmakers and the governor do not pass a school funding budget. The creation of the budget has been in limbo because of an ongoing war between the Republican governor and Democratic legislators. Rauner was most vilified on the posters the students carried.
There was no collaboration between teachers and students and no approval for the walkout. Junior Aaliyah Pearson of Martin Luther King, Jr. College Prep says during her three years at MLK, the school has suffered cuts and lost their one guidance counselor. She now wonders who will help her enroll in college when the time comes.
Students called for an elected school board, saying the CPS board which is appointed by the mayor is a “puppet show.”
Staff cuts for the CPS central office have already been made, and summer school arrangements have been changed to save money. Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool stated that although the city has 20% of Illinois’s students, the district only receives 15% of state spending for schools.
Progress Illinois writes that the students who protested wanted to demonstrate “how much they value their education, even though our elected and unelected officials do not.” At this time, CPS is facing a $1 billion budget shortfall.
The governor has proposed a bill that would raise school funding by $55 million, but district leaders point out that the funding formula would in fact take $74 million from CPS.
Gov. Rauner made controversial comments this week, including calling some CPS schools “crumbling prisons.”
“We live in a state where our governor calls our schools ‘crumbling prisons’ but refuses to actively improve public education,” said Walter Payton College Prep High School student Sarah Jester. “We live in a city where our corrupt mayor appoints only his good friends to our board of education, although boards are usually elected in many other districts.”
Parents from seven schools in the city’s Near North Side marched to press for a school budget solution and more funding for schools.
Sabah Hussain, a student at Lane Tech College Prep High School, noted:
“The power of the people is stronger than the people in power.”