Gathered on stage at the auditorium of Drake Elementary in Bronzeville, a 96% black and 98% low-income school, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool, Board of Education President Frank Clark, Ald. Pat Dowell (3) and a group of mostly black pastors and community representatives said Gov. Bruce Rauner’s education budget proposal–which reduces CPS’ allocation by $74 million–discriminates against Chicago children. Claypool called the press conference the launch of a “grassroots campaign” to get equal funding for the system.
“The message from Springfield is clear: your children are not as important. Your children’s future are not as valuable. Your children can do with less,” Claypool said, calling the budget “morally repugnant” and repeating that it was “separate but unequal.” He referred the crowd to a new CPS website, which says the current funding approach discriminates against low income and minority children across the state. The website auto-fills emails to local legislators calling the recipient to work with State Rep. Christian Mitchell and State Senator Andy Manar, “who are fighting for fair funding for all of our schools.” Claypool also has a new Twitter handle.
“Most Chicago Public Schools students are children of color. Most are from families that are in the low income bracket,” Clark told a crowd with members of the Power of Parents, Metropolitan Faith in Action, and Illinois Grassroots Chicago that filled half the auditorium. Clark called Rauner’s budget “punitive and discriminatory,” and said it punishes kids for living in Chicago.
Some of the biggest applause from the bussed-in parents came during Dr. Byron Brazier’s turn at the mic. “[Gov. Rauner] has no regard for people, especially those that have been systematically and institutionally differentiated, disadvantaged, discriminated, and victimized,” said Dr. Brazier, a pastor of the Apostolic Church of God in Woodlawn and a member of the city’s powerful Public Building Commission. “It is intended to continue these racial and economic practices of the past and further accelerate the differences between the haves and the have nots.”
The new CPS campaign, 20% for 20%, argues that Chicagoans contribute 20% of the state income tax, but CPS students receive 15% of the state’s total funding. The missing 5%, CPS says, is “enough to save our teachers and class sizes,” and is essential for the balanced budget Claypool has promised in the coming weeks.
He said CPS does not have plans to engage in long-term borrowing. Instead it will issue tax anticipation notes. “We are talking about a revolving line of credit, which is renewed based on cash flow needs and then paid back as the revenues come in from the two big chunks of funding… to cover the differential between timing of when payments come in and when we need to spend funds,” he told reporters after the event.
By the time Claypool and Clark’s media availability had wrapped, the auditorium was emptied and parents from the audience were loaded onto school buses.