CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Public Schools officials, teachers, parents, and students were headed to Springfield on Wednesday, to demand state lawmakers and the governor take action on long-delayed funding for the district.
CPS Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool was part of a group who will participate in a major rally at the Illinois State Capitol to push for equal state funding for public schools. They filled 31 buses headed to Springfield early Wednesday.
Among them were juniors taking a law class at Roberto Clemente Community Academy. They said they want to be part of the rally to voice their concerns about their education and their future.
“My voice gets to be heard out there, and people would hear from students that actually want to be in school, that we need this,” Cynthia Rosado said.
Eliezer Rivera said they hope lawmakers seeing everyday students demanding funding has more impact.
“It shows that the community is as much involved in this process,” he said.
The district has said it is facing a $129 million budget shortfall, and the state owes them an additional $476 million in block grant payments that have been delayed by the ongoing state budget standoff.
Clemente Academy Principal Dr. Marcy Sorensen said the shortage of funds is concerning.
“We have had to cut college tours, we’ve had to cut opportunities to expose our students to post-secondary opportunities; and our fear is really if this equitable funding formula is not passed and is not considered, those opportunities will continue to be denied to our students,” she said.
Claypool had earlier threatened CPS would close schools three weeks early without financial help from the state, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said he won’t let that happened. However, the mayor has not revealed how the city would help keep CPS running without money from Springfield, holding out hope the state will come through.
“I know where I’m spending my time. Forrest has a thousand percent my confidence. My time, my energy, my entire staff is focused on Springfield living up to their responsibility in the way that our kids and our teachers have been living up to their responsibilities,” he said Monday.
The mayor has noted the Illinois Constitution gives the state the primary responsibility for funding public education, and he said he expects the governor and legislature to live up to that obligation.
Gov. Bruce Rauner has said he agrees the state’s education system is broken, and he said legislators are working to change the formula for funding public schools.
The CPS rally in Springfield was set to begin at 1 p.m.