CPS urges students to attend first day of class

CHICAGO A group of religious leaders is pushing parents to keep their kids home from school on September 2 in protest over state education funding. But Wednesday's rally was all about making sure kids are at their desks on the first day of class, which is less than two weeks away.

"Those are numbers that do not have to exist. We can change that," said motivational speaker Les Brown who is trying to get CPS teachers, principals and parents fired up for the start of the school year.

On the South Side, a group of ministers is calling for students to boycott the first day of class to protest lack of funding in Chicago Public Schools. Wednesday's rally had been planned for months -- long before State Senator James Meeks spearheaded the boycott effort.

Teachers and parents say the timing of the rally is now more important than ever to fight the proposed boycott.

"We understand what they are trying to do. I mean politically we understand. OK, yeah, right. You want to show the difference and all that. But the bottom line is we still know how important it is for the kids to be in school on the first day," said Antoinette Brown, Principal, Vanderpool Humanities Academy.

"I understand what they want to do, they have a point to prove, me personally as a parent, I don't believe that's the right way to go about it," said Ronald Evans, parent.

CPS Chief Arne Duncan says education funding should be a debate among adults and that students should not be caught in the middle. But supports of the boycott say it's the only way to send a strong message to Springfield.

"I'm not saying we do not want our children to go to school, but what we're seeing is we do not want our children to return to a second-class school," said Rev. Roosevelt Watkins, boycott supporter.

Parents say they are sympathetic to Reverend Meeks effort but say it's more important to have their children in class.

"As a parent also, I'd rather have my kids in school the first day, but I understand Pastor Meeks' point, trying to spread the money out properly from some schools to other schools but the kids should be in class," said Edward Rosa, parent.

CPS officials want as many students in class on the first day as possible because school districts get more state money based on the initial head count.

"We're urging all parents to get their kids to school for the first day because that's money also," said Charlotte Brent, CPS Board Member.

The other major revenue source for school districts is property taxes.

The first day of school for Chicago Public Schools is September 2.

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