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Chance The Rapper Says He'll Give $1 Million To Chicago Public Schools

By Heather Cherone | March 6, 2017 10:43am | Updated on March 8, 2017 11:52am
 Chance the Rapper announces he's giving $1 million to the CPS school system he attended.
Chance the Rapper announces he's giving $1 million to the CPS school system he attended.
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Joshua Mellin

CHATHAM — Grammy Award winner Chance The Rapper announced Monday he will donate $1 million to the Chicago Public Schools for arts education — a move that drew praise from former first lady Michelle Obama — but he said talks over the weekend with Gov. Bruce Rauner failed to find a way to end the financial crisis engulfing Chicago's schools.

The rapper, born and raised in Chatham, had promised Friday to develop a plan after a meeting with Rauner, where the musician and artist said he told the governor: "Take our kids off the table."

Chance said he spoke with the governor over the weekend, but the two made no more progress than they did on Friday.

RELATED: 'IT WAS JUST DOPE': STUDENTS ECSTATIC OVER CHANCE'S VISIT

The $129 million CPS budget deficit — created when 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, sporting a baby blue baseball cap with the number three emblazoned on it, referencing his third full-length release, "Coloring Book."

Rauner should have signed a bill in November that would have given Chicago's schools $215 million to help pay its bills, said Chance — born Chancelor Bennett.

"Do your job, Gov. Rauner," said Chance, speaking in the library at Westcott Elementary School surrounded by students in Chatham after being introduced by Principal Monique Dockery.

Chance grew up just a few blocks from the school.

"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.

Rauner's office did not respond directly to Chance's announcement, but instead noted that the governor and his wife have donated more than $7 million over the past 20 years directly to organizations benefiting Chicago Public School 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 — will come from the proceeds of his Spring Tour, set to kick off April 24 in San Diego.

In addition to the $1 million donation, Chance said he would give $10,000 directly to Westcott Elementary, where Dockery told reporters that would save after-school math and reading enrichment classes.

In addition, Chance called for wealthy Chicagoans to step up and donate to Chicago schools. For every $100,000 raised, Social Works Chicago — which Chance co-founded — will donate $10,000 directly to Chicago Public Schools.

"Fight with me," Chance said.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama thanked Chance on Twitter.

Hours before Chance's press conference, Rauner released his own plan to solve the budget crisis.

One proposal would give Mayor Rahm Emanuel the one-time authority to transfer TIF money from districts across the city to the school district "given the extraordinary mismanagement of both the city and CPS budgets," according to a memo released by Rauner's office.

The other option would be to add $215 million for Chicago's schools to the Illinois Senate's pension bill now pending in the General Assembly and removing it from the larger effort to reach an agreement on a state budget, according to the memo.

Emanuel immediately rejected both proposals as "no solutions at all."

Chance chronicled his busy weekend on Twitter, starting before noon Saturday.

Chance also met with Black Lives Matter activist and former Baltimore mayoral candidate Deray McKesson, who said they talked about education funding.

But it wasn't all work for Chance, who attended the Bulls game against the Los Angeles Clippers Saturday night — and partied with the team afterward, according to reports.

Chicago school officials have sued the state, alleging that the way Illinois funds schools is discriminatory.

The fiscal crisis for Chicago Public Schools began in November, when Rauner blamed Illinois Senate President John Cullerton for violating a compromise made in June that allowed schools to open last September. Part of that deal promised Chicago schools $215 million to help cover its pension obligation in return for statewide "pension reform," a long-held goal of the governor.

But in a December message to legislators, Rauner said he would not sign a school-funding bill because it would amount to a "bailout" for CPS. The governor also wants lawmakers to adopt his agenda, which he says will spur business growth in Illinois, as part of a budget agreement.

Cullerton denied breaking the agreement and said he was willing to continue working on pension reform with the governor.

Rauner and Speaker of the House Michael Madigan have been locked in a bitter fight over the Illinois budget that has lasted nearly two years.

Last month, CPS Chief Executive Forrest Claypool ordered four unpaid furlough days for all CPS employees to save $35 million. Earlier this month, Claypool cut $5 million by canceling professional development events for its central office staff and slashed charter school budgets by $15 million by the end of the year, officials said.

Claypool cut another $31 million by freezing a portion of schools' discretionary funds, which can be used to purchase textbooks and technology as well as to pay for after-school programs, field trips and hourly staff.

Those cuts leave a CPS deficit of $129 million, officials said.