CHICAGO (WLS) --When Chicago Public schools start on Tuesday, 15,000 more children will have Safe Passage routes.
The state of Illinois is investing $10 million in the Chicago Public Schools Safe Passage program, Governor Pat Quinn announced Thursday. The city will also add $1 million to make sure students get back and forth from school safely.
"This is where our commitment starts for a high quality education, the commitment starts with the people right here in this room, it starts with Safe Passage getting them there," said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett during a CPS rally Thursday.
Safe Passage stations community members trained by CPS's Office of Safety and Security along designated routes to and from local schools to help keep students safe and notify police or school administrators of any possible threats.
The investment will add 27 new schools and increase routes to 93 schools currently in the program. The funding is expected to employ 600 new workers. Safe Passage, which started in 2009, currently serves about 65,000 students.
"If you invest in our kids, they are going to surprise you on the upside every time, every one of them," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Despite what skeptics said about the program, there have been no major problems as children travel back and forth to school.
"Safe Passage gave a great bang for the buck, a great bang, so those who were skeptics are now probably on the bandwagon," said Minister Johnny Banks, executive direction of A Knock at Midnight.
Banks is in charge of a Safe Passage program in Englewood. The benefit, he says, is two-fold; it's helping children and adults.
"It's a major accomplishment to know that no child should be scared," said Tasha Johnson, a Safe Passage worker. "You should be able to walk from your home to the school."
"It's just the level of importance for your community to know you are doing something that is meaningful and for people to show appreciation," said Tyran Dumas, a Safe Passage worker.
Appreciation was the mayor's message to Safe Passage workers at Thursday's rally.
"Thank you for what you do!" he said. "Thank you for making sure they can think about their studies and not their safety."
The Safe Passage program is marking its five-year anniversary this fall. When it started, 35 schools were part of the program. Now, 106 schools will have Safe Passage programs.