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Rally For More State Money For CPS Has Disappointing Turnout

"20 for 20" School Funding Rally
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DNAinfo/Howard A. Ludwig

MOUNT GREENWOOD — Plenty of good seats were available Wednesday evening for a Chicago Public Schools funding rally at Mount Greenwood Elementary School.

The "20 for 20" rally was held in the 300-seat auditorium of the school at 10841 S. Homan Ave. in Mount Greenwood. About 200 people showed up, including a smattering of parents and students along with a fair amount of local teachers.

Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th) took the stage and said he expected a larger audience, particularly considering the recent attention funding for city schools has garnered on social media.

"Facebook doesn't solve the problem. Filling rooms solves the problem," O'Shea said.

O'Shea then introduced Forrest Claypool, the chief executive officer for CPS. He laid out a funding discrepancy that he said awards CPS students 69 cents compared to every dollar spent on students elsewhere.

 Ald. Matt O'Shea (l.) stood beside a group of area principals Wednesday. The principals gathered at Mount Greenwood Elementary School for a rally for more state education funding for CPS.
Ald. Matt O'Shea (l.) stood beside a group of area principals Wednesday. The principals gathered at Mount Greenwood Elementary School for a rally for more state education funding for CPS.
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DNAinfo/Howard A. Ludwig

"We have a system that fundamentally discriminates against our children," said Claypool, adding that if the playing field were leveled more than $500 million would be added to the CPS coffers.

That said, the stage is set for even further state cuts, which Claypool and others referred to as "catastrophic." He encouraged those in the crowd to make plans to attend a rally May 26 in Springfield to further show support for CPS.

"The survival and future of our school system is at stake in the next two weeks," said Claypool, referencing the ongoing state budget talks.

Ten principals from 19th Ward schools and beyond were on hand for rally. Afterwards, several congregated to debrief and talk about sending parents and other supporters to Springfield.

Kate Reidy, principal at Mount Greenwood School, voiced similar disappointment with the turnout Wednesday. She said parents were well aware of the rally but seemingly decided to stay home.

"We get concerned over a pothole or traffic around the school. Everyone is screaming. But this is where everyone should be," Reidy said.

Eileen Scanlan, principal at Kellogg Elementary School in North Beverly, said fliers were distributed and messages were posted on her school's social media channels too.

Still, she also had few representatives in the crowd. Scanlan believes the lack of urgency likely stems from the looming budget cuts having yet to hit home.

"The budgets haven't been revealed yet to see how it will affect the schools," she said.

Sean McNichols, principal at Clissold Elementary School in Morgan Park, agreed with his colleagues, saying more attention needs to be paid to the issue that has the potential to push class sizes to unacceptable levels.

"We need to get people talking," McNichols said.

Plans to send 19th Ward parents and other supporters to Springfield have yet to coalesce. Talks of buses, meeting points and timetables were all being tossed around after the meeting.

O'Shea stopped short of supporting sending area elementary school students to the downstate rally. But he said perhaps students from the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences in Mount Greenwood and Morgan Park High School could make the trip as part of a civics lesson.

"I think this is a powerful lesson to learn for our teenagers," he said.

Either way, he and the principals and others are hoping to light a fire under area residents in order to spur statewide action that will prevent a financial bombshell from landing on CPS.

"Our neighborhood is historically the loudest voice. We need to lead. We need to lead now more than ever," O'Shea said.

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