CHATHAM — Chance the Rapper, the 2017 Grammy Award winning Chicago-born artist, has set the bar high for what other entertainers should be doing for Chicago Public Schools, one student said.
“I thought it was beyond exciting because so many other rappers make millions and [haven’t done] anything, and [Chance] could’ve done the same,” said 13-year-old eighth grader DeShaun Maxwell.
Chance surprised students at Westcott Elementary, 409 W. 80th St., Monday with an unexpected announcement. He presented a check of $1 million to CPS for arts education. Chance said he also would give $10,000 directly to Westcott Elementary
“This came from ticket sales, from the fans,” said Chance, who attended CPS schools when he was known as Chancelor Bennett.
He said he was doing this because “it’s the right thing to do.”
Although the rapper didn’t attend Westcott for elementary school, he did grow up in the community. Singling the school out meant a lot, DeShaun said, who was present during the news conference.
“It was just dope,” he said.
Glendra Williams, 10, and DeShaun Maxwell, 13, called Chance the Rapper a role model. [DNAinfo/Andrea V. Watson]
Keeping students at school where they’re safe is a plan he supports, he said, expressing concern about the violence in the city.
“I don’t want my closest friends to die,” he said.
Glendra Williams, 10 and in the fourth grade, said she doubted that Chance would actually come to her school. When she saw him walk into the library, her mouth dropped and she whispered “Oh my god,” she said.
“He didn’t just want to give money out and get on the cameras, but he actually wanted to help schools,” she said.
Both she and Maxwell called Chance a role model in the community.
“He actually really cares about the school, not just Grammys and money,” Williams said.
The funding will go toward their after school program that focuses on math and reading, as well as programming such as dance and theater, said school principal Monique Dockery.
[Westcott Elementary principal Monique Dockery introduces Chance the Rapper. DNAinfo/Andrea V. Watson]
The call from Chance came Sunday and she said she was very surprised.
“He only said he wanted to discuss funding,” she said.
The $129 million CPS budget deficit — created when Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill that would have helped the school district pay its pension bill — threatens to force officials to end the school year on June 1 — 20 days early.
"Gov. Rauner broke his promise to Chicago's children," Chance said.
Chance met with Rauner last week to discuss the budget cuts and how the state could help end the financial crisis that public schools are experiencing. That talk didn’t go well, he said. Over the weekend they spoke again, Chance said, but still no solution was found.
"Our kids should not be held hostage," Chance said, adding that he is "frustrated and disappointed" by Rauner's actions, which he said would put Chicago's children "in harm's way" if there is no school during the month of June.
Chance the Rapper donated $1 million to Chicago Public Schools March 5, 2017. [Joshua Mellin]
Rauner should have signed a bill in November that would have given Chicago's schools $215 million to help pay its bills, said Chance.
"Do your job, Gov. Rauner," he said.
The governor’s office didn’t respond to Chance’s announcement, but did mention that Rauner and his wife have donated more than $7 million over the last 20 years directly to organizations that benefit CPS students.
“While the Rauners are passionate donors to our schools, individual contributions will never be enough to address the financial challenges facing CPS," said spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis. "It would be helpful if CPS officials came to Springfield and joined in serious good faith discussions about the long-term stability of all of our schools.”
Chance's donation to Chicago's schools — through the Chicago Public Schools Foundation for Education — will come from the proceeds of his Spring Tour, set to kick off April 24 in San Diego.
Chance said he’s hopeful that the crisis won’t last forever.
“We are going to get pass this,” Chance said.
Rapper and actor Common, also a Chicago native, seems to be on board, Chance said. He texted Chance Monday morning and the two planned to speak over the phone later in the day, he said.
Chance said he’s asking for everyone’s help.
“When I call on you, I’m going to need your help,” he said.
He’s asking for those who are able to donate to Chicago schools. For every $100,000 raised, Social Works Chicago — which Chance co-founded — will donate $10,000.
Some from the community gathered outside of the school anxiously waiting to see Chance up close.
Although many of them didn’t have children who attend the school, they said they support and applaud Chance for what he is doing.
Alicia Timms said more entertainers need to invest in the public schools.
DeShaun Maxwell, left, took a selfie with Chance the Rapper at his school. [Courtesy of DeShaun Maxwell]
“This shows that he has a vested interest in where he came from,” she said. “He’s not the celebrity that’s up-and-coming and decided to just say ‘Let me just leave and pursue mine.’”
“I’m hoping the money he gave CPS actually is allocated to where it needs to go and not to a school on the North Side or someone's pockets,” Timms said.
Community resident Joy Lyons said that a lot of Chicagoans are fed up with the city and state government and want to see change immediately. She said it shouldn’t have taken this long for someone like Chance to stand up.
“Why did it take for Chance to do it and not other ones to do it?”