Education: Chance Donated $10,000 to My CPS School (and All I Got Was This Lousy Coloring Book)

Samantha Adams is a pen name for an English teacher at Collins Academy High School, a CPS school in the North Lawndale area of the city

It was reported with a sweeping fervor last week that lauded Chicago born and bred entertainer Chance the Rapper identified ten public schools that would benefit specifically on top of his $1 million general donation to Chicago Public Schools.

As reported by the Chicago Tribune, Chance is using ticket sales for his upcoming tour to fulfill the $1 million donation, which will impact CPS’ fundraising arm and is expected to primarily be used to back initiatives in the arts.

In the meantime a series of donations, each $10,000, is being sprinkled across schools in low income communities on the South and West sides of town.  

  • Westcott Elementary (West Chatham)
  • Nathan Davis (Brighton Park)
  • Mahalia Jackson (Auburn Gresham)
  • Charle Carroll (Ashburn)
  • Clemente (West Town)
  • Robeson (Englewood)
  • Orr (on the border of West Garfield and Humboldt Park)
  • Hirsch Metropolitan (Greater Grand Crossing)  
  • Juarez High School (Pilsen)
  • Fenger (Roseland)

There is no correlation between sizeable donations to an increase in music sales, so this should not be dismissed as a PR “stunt,” this motivated young man is doing what any wealthy, “woke” person would do, he’s becoming a philanthropist.

While this gesture is admirable, this donation will get eaten up quicker than a $100 gift card at Target. Ten thousand dollars doesn’t even educate one student for the year in this city. Crain’s Chicago Business reported in 2016 that operational spending came out to $16,432 per student in 2015.

After the check hits the school’s account it goes to the “Gifts and Grants” bucket. From there it has to get allocated to individual line items like Attendance, English Department, or Athletics. If distributed evenly, each program might (…might) come up with $1000 each. When one class set of Carolina Becker Starter Kits is $750 and a class set of To Kill a Mockingbird costs the same, $1000 isn’t much.

When former Bulls player, and Chicago native, Derrick Rose donated $1 million to After School Matters in 2014, it made sense. After School Matters provides specific programming and they pay students to participate in them. To use an analogy, Chance’s donation is to impact as water is to taste, it has none.

But I wonder if the principals are allowed to decide how the money is spent; and if they do, what would they spend it on. Perhaps it can be used to soften operational issues that would benefit the whole school. For example, at my school, there are four inoperable copy machines in the teacher’s lounge because CPS has not paid its $10,000 bill to the Xerox company. A donation like this would relieve a major frustration for teachers and students alike.

Maybe, if the school wanted to be more tech-savvy, a class set of Chromebooks could be purchased. Chance’s funds can create a single 1 to 1 classroom, allowing thirty students to have access to a laptop for about $7,000. This would leave every building he’s helping with enough money left over to fund four educational field trips between now and the end of the year, whenever that may be.

It’s hard to even acknowledge the Rapper’s effort when Forrest Claypool, CEO of CPS, is threatening to end the school year early in order to save $91 million.

I am still reeling from the money that was stolen by former CPS CEO, Barbara Byrd Bennett.

I am still fuming from the forced furlough days this year.

I am still agonizing over the lack of funding for my pension in the future.

The school system is hemorrhaging and even if every Black celebrity from Chicago followed his lead, Chance will not be responsible for patching up bullet holes lodged in public education.

So where’s the real triage nurse, one to put up money and/or advocate for these schools? Well, when it’s not us teachers, it needs to be the people sitting in the aldermen’s offices and churches in the same communities. If each of them adopted a school, had a presence and were knowledgeable of the needs at one school then maybe my colleagues and I wouldn’t be the only ones putting pressure on the mayor and the governor to invest in our children.

Chance is not edifying himself, he is shaming the local leaders who aren’t expressing concern.

Thankfully, he didn’t announce the launch of the “Chancelor Bennett Charter High School for the Performing Arts,” which in effect would close another public school. The looming push toward the privatization of education can easily make that a reality.

Even without a school in his name, Bennett is positioning himself to be a major figure in Chicago. He was recognized as Chicago’s Outstanding Youth of the Year in 2014 by Mayor Emanuel. In January, he announced that he joined the board at the DuSable Museum of African American History, which is really dope. And after winning three Grammys, he leveraged his acclaim to get a meeting with Illinois governor Bruce Rauner to discuss education.

While Chance, as reported by Vibe magazine, has stated, “I’m not a politician […] I just care about the kids…” I would not be surprised if he followed his father’s ambitions for the rapper and pursued politics after the wave that has brought him so high in the list of “everyone’s favorite rapper” has made its crest. It’ll be then when he can truly devise a master plan for education that would live up to the noise afforded this initial strike.

$10,000 will guarantee every student will have a brand new Coloring Book. Gonna take a few more turns around the block before crayons are affordable.

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