Chance the Rapper during his press conference Monday at Westcott Elementary School in Chicago. (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP)

Rappers have a long history of championing political causes, whether through verse or through action outside the recording studio. Chicago native Chancelor Bennett, known professionally as Chance the Rapper, made waves this week when he joined the fight to support public education.

It began when Chance met with Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner on March 3 to discuss funding issues facing Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The meeting took place because Rauner vetoed $215 million in state aid to CPS last December. Chance was determined to speak with Rauner, tweeting that he was “eager to hear [the governor’s] ideas.”

After the two spoke behind closed doors, Chance told reporters he was “flustered” by the governor’s “vague” answers.

“I’m not a politician,” the rapper added. “I’m here because I’m a dad and an after-school teacher. I care about the kids.”

Despite his disappointment with the Republican governor’s response, Chance shared some optimism via Twitter:

On Monday, Chance held a press conference at Chicago’s Westcott Elementary School.

“As you guys know, Friday I met with Governor Bruce Rauner to urge him to do his job and to honor his original commitment to provide $215 million to CPS so our kids can finish the year strong,” he told the roomful of reporters. “The governor gave me a lot of vague answers in our meeting, and since has called me over the weekend. Our talks were unsuccessful.”

Chance also addressed the disparity between the salaries of Chicago teachers and those of teachers in other parts of Illinois. This disparity has made headlines and become the subject of a lawsuit in recent months.

“Chicago Public Schools, which have about 380,000 students, received about 15% of the state’s $10.6 billion in education funding, despite enrolling nearly 20% of Illinois’ public students in 2016,” USA Today reported.

In February, the Chicago Public School System filed a lawsuit against Rauner and the Illinois Board of Education, alleging “separate and unequal systems of funding for public education in Illinois.”

Although Rauner “broke his promise to Chicago’s children, our kids should not be held hostage because of political positions,” Chance said at his press conference.

He continued:

While I’m frustrated and disappointed in the governor’s inaction, that will not stop me from continuing to do all I can to support Chicago’s most valuable resource: its children. Today, I’m proud to announce that I am donating $1 million to CPS.

Chance also announced that SocialWorks, a Chicago nonprofit he started along with several others in 2016, would donate $10,000 directly to a Chicago public school for every $100,000 donated by other sources.

He followed through: Three days after his press conference, Chance took to Twitter to name nine public schools that will receive $10,000 each from SocialWorks.

“Of the schools getting money from Chance, the hardest-hit high schools are Juarez and Clemente, which are set to lose $482,100 and $221,100, respectively,” the Chicago Tribune reported. “Among elementaries, Carroll is set to lose $93,267 and Westcott faces a $75,197 cut.”

Chance’s announcement Monday prompted enthusiastic responses from Chicago natives and fellow rappers.

Former first lady Michelle Obama tweeted her thanks:

Rapper Killer Mike, also a prominent political activist, applauded Chance on Instagram.

Chance’s donation inspired Seattle Seahawks player Michael Bennett (no relation) to donate all his 2017 endorsement money “to help rebuild minority communities.”

Chicago native and rapper Common may play a role, too. Chance noted that the two had scheduled a phone call to discuss CPS and funding solutions.

In the week before his meeting with Rauner, Chance also spent time discussing school funding with longtime political activist DeRay McKesson.

Chance’s message even inspired a local bakery to champion the cause by selling Chance-themed cookies and donating part of the profits to SocialWorks.

“This isn’t about politics, this isn’t about posturing, this is about taking care of the kids,” Chance said during his press conference Monday.

In his music, Chance has touched on political issues affecting his hometown, and he has spent years encouraging arts education and youth activities in Chicago. But his latest step shows more pointedly that the 23-year-old rap artist is determined to use his celebrity and wealth to create substantial change.

And he’s nowhere near finished. Early Saturday, Chance tweeted “Not done,” and he continues to use social media to share videos and photos relating to his ongoing activism.

For his outspokenness about an educational crisis and his devotion to improving his hometown of Chicago, Chance the Rapper is our Truthdigger of the Week.


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