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New Chance Arts and Literature Fund

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On March 31, Chance the Rapper announced his newest efforts to help with Chicago’s underfunded public school system, The New Chance Arts and Literature Fund, over a live stream posted to Twitter from Robeson High School.

Chance the Rapper is a performer who grew up attending Chicago public schools and is well known for staying an independent artist, not signing with any music labels. This new fund is not the first step Chance has taken in supporting the Chicago School District; in the beginning of March, he also donated $1 million to Chicago Public Schools for arts and enrichment programming. The New Chance Arts and Literature Fund will work toward giving supplies and equipment for reading and arts programs in schools.

“Public schools are, to me, the equalizer of society,” said Dr. Jacqueline Easley, Chair of the Education Department. “They should be. They are a gateway for everyone, no matter their income level, to gain access to information, to new ideas … So our public schools need to be a place where opportunities are available to our students so they can start dipping their toe into different areas of interests and see what they like. If we don’t provide it there, families aren’t always going to have the means or the access to seek out these programs as afterschool programs.”

Arts and afterschool programs can often be cut when schools are facing insufficient funding. Public school systems are funded through two different means: one is the state’s aid and the other is property tax. Ideally, each should provide 50 percent of the cost, but in Illinois specifically, property taxes fund 62 percent of the school systems while the state only provides 38 percent (United States Census Bureau. Public Education Finances, 2013). This is problematic in urban areas, where property value might be lower, and rural areas, where there aren’t a lot of corporate taxes or businesses to supplement the tax base.

“I think that what Chance the Rapper is doing is fantastic,” said Easley. “He’s a good role model in terms of using education to move forward, as well as in the arts, like he has, but if we depend on the goodwill of others to fund schools, what if they don’t have that goodwill? We really have to think creatively as a society about what we can do to really make sure we have equitable funding for our schools and all our students.”

Chance’s efforts to help Chicago Public Schools is, however, a good way to get people thinking and joining in on the effort to make a difference and find a better way to provide funds for education. A meeting that Chance the Rapper had with Illinois governor Bruce Rauner has already caused new measures to be taken. Although the meeting was reportedly disappointing for Chance, as he found Rauner’s answers to his questions “vague”, the republican governor circulated a memo proposing two plans that may secure about $215 million for funding in the city school system a few hours before Chance the Rapper announced his $1 million donation.

“What he’s doing has several, I think, rippling effects,” said Easley. “One, he’s bringing national attention to what is needed in our schools, and up until then our national attention was based on the number of people being shot in Chicago. So, at least now we’re looking at something positive that we’re going to do for the future and to show that this is so important that we’re willing to invest our own money in it … I think it’s also good because it makes other people start to think about doing something that’s good for the children, whether it’s in the Chicago public schools or their own local schools, to sort of continue to pay it forward … But we don’t want it to become, ‘Oh good, that’s taken care of, so we don’t need to worry about that anymore.’ Right? We still need to reexamine how we fund our education system.”

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