CPS rally at Soldier Field

June 10, 2008 2:58:59 PM PDT
Chicago Public School students attended a rally at Soldier Field along with hundreds of faculty members and teachers to send a strong message to Springfield for more state funding.In a press release, the district said the rally was organized by students. But ABC7 learned that the adults - school administrators and politicians - were the ones who made the rally happen and controlled the message that was targeted for Springfield.

At least half the time the event had the feel of a concert and the estimated 30,000 Chicago Public School students who missed a day of school appeared to enjoy the music more than the speeches.

But Mayor Daley wasn't worried about appearances, calling the "Shout Out for Schools Rally" the "largest civics lesson in Chicago's history."

"You're teaching America that young people have voices that can speak out for a better America and a better world," said Daley.

Chicago Public School bosses planned the rally to take place while the governor and state lawmakers are considering next year's budget. Most of the kids were briefed beforehand on what they should say their schools need.

"For the government to give us more money, we could have better classrooms and better books and stuff," said student Jeriesha Blanden.

"The textbooks in schools, they are all ripped up. They don't buy them new," said student Christian Arroyo.

Minutes after the rally was underway the governor's office reacted with a written statement saying that "since 2003, the state has increased annual funding for Chicago Public Schools by $521 million, or 40 percent."

But Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan says despite the better effort the state still ranks too low in its funding of public education.

"Why can we be satisfied if we're 47 out of 50 states in funding education?" said Duncan.

The CPS students remembered over two dozen of their colleagues who were murdered during the past school year. Empty chairs representing each victim were placed in a circle at midfield. The students wanted everyone watching in Chicago and in Springfield to feel their pain.

"When people come to know our students, I think you can't help but want to do something better for them," said Duncan.

The governor's office said in its statement that Chicago Public Schools would receive nearly $500 million in additional funding including some for violence prevention if the Illinois Works Capital Plan is approved by the legislature. However, that part of the budget bill is still bogged down because of the long-running dispute between the governor and House Speaker Michael Madigan.


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