ENGLEWOOD — Saying the "arts are essential," Grammy Award winner Chance the Rapper announced Friday that he was creating a new $2.2 million fund to save programs at Chicago schools hardest hit by budget cuts.
Flanked by students at Paul Robeson High School, the city's favorite rapper said the new arts programs would start in the fall.
Chance, who grew up in Chatham, has been raising money for schools through his website and his nonprofit organization, Social Works Chicago.
Chance also announced that the Chicago Bulls had matched his $1 million donation he made to CPS for arts education.
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"We know the Illinois education system is one of the most underfunded in the nation, which has forced CPS to make drastic cuts to the classroom," he said at the high school, 6835 S. Normal Blvd., Friday.
"Students have lost valuable teachers, supplies, access to after school and enrichment programs, especially in the arts and special needs programs," he said.
"I'm committed to helping Chicago students have quality learning experiences in a quality learning space," said Chance. "As an artist I know the arts are essential, they teach students valuable lessons."
School principal Melanie Valerie Beatty-Sevier said she received a phone call from Chance Thursday asking if he could use her library to hold a news conference about CPS budget cuts. He did not say what for.
"I said 'If Chancelor Bennett calls and asks, 'Can I use your facilities?' something great is about to happen, so of course, I said, 'Yes, absolutely.'”
His presence meant a lot to her students, she said.
"For them, it’s like someone cares about us, we aren’t forgotten," she said.
"This was good. ... He’s just like them, he’s one of them, from the community, and he’s a graduate of a CPS school.”
In all, Chance said the fund had collected $2.2 million for arts, music and literature programs in the less than a month that had passed since he met with Gov. Bruce Rauner and urged him to end the budget crisis engulfing the Chicago Public Schools.
When that meeting ended with no solution — and Chance urging the governor to “take our kids off the table” much to the delight of Mayor Rahm Emanuel — Chance announced he would donate $1 million to Chicago's schools — and urged others to donate as well.
In response to a question from a reporter, Chance said he had not spoken to the governor since that announcement.
"No, nope, nope," Chance said. "This is a philanthropic effort."
Because the musician promised to donate $10,000 directly to a school for every $100,000 raised through the nonprofit he founded — Social Works Chicago — the additional $1.2 million collected means another 12 schools will get some extra cash.
Scooter Braun, who helped transform Justin Bieber from a YouTube phenomenon to mega star, and Chicago-born comedian Hannibal Burress, a graduate of the Chicago Public Schools like Chance, also donated to the new arts fund.
The rapper said he would partner with arts education advocacy group Ingenuity Inc. to determine what programs would be funded and at what schools.
Beatty-Sevier plans to use the funds to take Robeson students to see the hip-hop musical "Hamilton" and also to work with a local artist who creates murals using mosaic tile.
Seventeen-year-old Ryan Robinson, an Englewood resident and junior, said that although he's not a huge fan of Chance's music, he appreciates what the artist is doing for the South Side.
"It's amazing because a lot of artists, they don't take out their time to come support the young people," he said. "I was mind-blown when I heard he was coming, I didn't even know."
Unless state lawmakers reach an agreement on a budget that includes more money for Chicago schools, officials have said the school year will end June 1 — not June 20 as planned.
Chicago school officials have sued the state, alleging that the way Illinois funds schools in discriminatory.
The fiscal crisis for CPS 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.