CPS pushes for attendance, rejects school boycott

August 13, 2008 3:10:18 PM PDT
As Chicago public school officials urge students to attend the first day on September 2, a state senator calls for a boycott. Summer vacation is drawing to a close, so Chicago Public Schools administrators are pounding the pavement putting up signs and ringing doorbells to remind students and their parents about the first day of class- September 2.

Radio personalities and Bulls player Joakim Noah joined CPS officials in going door-to-door to hand out school supplies and encourage attendance.

"I love math. That is my favorite thing to learn math. And that's why I want to go back to school," said Shamia Brown, going into the 3rd Grade.

According to CPS CEO Arne Duncan, since 2000, attendance on the first day of school has gone up 17-percent with 68,000 more children in the classrooms. Attendance is important, according to Duncan, because part of the CPS funding is based on average attendance during its three highest months.

"...September is always our highest month. So that highest month drives a higher average which drives more money into our system," said Rufus Williams, Chicago Board of Education President.

The back-to-school drive takes place every year. However, this year officials are having to respond to a call by several influential ministers-- including the Rev. and State Senator James Meeks-- to boycott the first day of school until the Illinois Legislature approves an education bill that provides equal funding for all public schools.

"Boycotting the first day is the wrong thing to do. Our children need to be in school all the time. We need to have a different method," said Williams.

Duncan went on to attack legislators who were called into a special session on Tuesday to discuss an education bill, but failed to bring it up. The house adjourned after a 20 minute meeting.

"I wonder when the legislative leaders go to sleep at night or look in the mirror in the morning, what they feel they have accomplished. What have they done to better the state? What have they done to make the lives of our children better?" said Duncan.

Illinois ranks 49th out of 50 when it comes to state funding of education.

Part of the problem is there is no clear plan to fix education funding on the table. As things stand now, a share of school funding comes from property taxes, which keeps schools in higher income communities better funded than those in poor neighborhoods.


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