In a press conference this afternoon, Chance the Rapper announced that he is donating $1 million to the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Foundation. In addition, he will donate $10,000 directly to the school where the press conference took place—Westcott Elementary School in Englewood, located a stone’s throw from where Chance grew up—which will go towards reading enrichment and afterschool math programs there. View a video of the press conference below, which was livestreamed earlier today on Chance’s social media.
On Friday, Chance met with Illinois governor Bruce Rauner to discuss funding and resources for CPS and afterwards said the he felt the meeting “didn’t go as planned” and that Rauner gave “vague answers” to his questions. In today’s press conference, Chance was much more direct in calling out the governor to solve the problem, saying “Do your job, Rauner” and describing the governor as ‘holding kids hostage’ with all the budget cuts, which disproportionately affect students of color. As many readers might know, it has recently been proposed to end the CPS school year 20 days early in order to save $9 million: yet another example of how city and state officials treat Chicago youth, their futures and their equal rights to education as non-essential when compared to the dollars and cents.
It is estimated that Chance the Rapper’s current net worth is between one and two million dollars, which makes the size of his donations all the more significant. Comparably, Illinois governor Bruce Rauner is a borderline-billionaire and Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel is worth close to $14 million; yet, neither one of them has given up one red cent of their own money for this city, and, in fact, both appear to consistently do everything in their power to divert resources and tax dollars away from those who need it most, especially through their inaction, which Chance and his people are aiming to bring to light. Though the state has not had a budget in two years, Gov. Rauner still managed to make it a priority to cut mental health care, childcare and other forms of support for working families, and vetoed a bill in December of 2016 that created the current $215 million defecit CPS faces; his own proposal, released mere hours before Chance’s press conference and already rejected by the Chicago Mayor’s office, seeks to use TIF funds to solve the CPS budget crisis, which is ironic since the TIF program is the source of many CPS woes.
Chance the Rapper stated that the money he is donating to CPS comes from ticket sales for his Spring Tour that begins next month (as if you needed another reason to go see him live!), and he invited fellow wealthy Chicagoans to reach into their own proverbial pocketbooks and donate for the cause. Through the non-profit called SocialWorks that he co-founded, Chance also promised to donate another $10,000 to a school for every $100,000 raised for CPS, with the goal of crowdfuding the entire $215 million deficit. This big donation from Chance, which will go to CPS arts programming, falls in line with the mission of SocialWorks, which is to “empower the youth through the arts, education and civic engagement.” This work is important as art and after-school programs—which keeps young people engaged and is essential for their education, development and well-being—are often the first things to get cut. On the SocialWorks website, there is now a tab for “Reforming the CPS Education Budget,” which includes a statement from Chance under his given name, Chancelor Bennet, and calls out the Governor for shirking his responsibilities:
Illinois’ education system is one of the most severly underfunded in the nation.
As an artist, Chance the Rapper is known for staying true to his creations and being a man of the people in several ways, including by subverting the money-grubbing labels and giving his music away for free to his fans. For those that follow him, we know that he is constantly doing shows and festivals, is regularly featured on other artists’ songs and supports up-and-comers, and gives a real everyman vibe in spite of how obviously talented and hardworking he is. Just last month, he made music history by being the first artist not signed to a label to win a Grammy award. Chance is deliberate in his choices in how he makes and uses his money and how he engages with the community as an artist and a fellow community member. For too long the narrative of Chicago and Illinois budget crises have been the problem is insurmountable, and it has been normalized for the the burden to fall on working class folks and, especially recently, the youth in Chicago. While it can be argued that throwing money into a highly flawed CPS system is problematic, earmarking the funds for the arts is more smallscale and practical than trying to solve the myriad of issues with CPS and how it is run. Chance’s rather uncomplicated proposal at the very least shifts that narrative and puts a spotlight on rich politicians that act like something better is not possible. For Chance, it’s no problem.