Chance the Rapper, who hails from Chicago and who endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in 2016, is scheduled to meet this week with Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner to talk about Chicago Public Schools and the district’s extreme financial crisis. Really.
The meeting comes not long after Rauner was sued, along with the Illinois State Board of Education, by Chicago Public Schools over allegations of longtime inadequate and unequal funding. Rauner and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have clashed, each insulting the other in public over the district’s financial mess.
If it seems likes nothing more than a publicity stunt to you that Rauner would welcome talks with a rapper about funding (but not educators or city officials), this may make it even starker: Chance the Rapper’s father is Ken Williams-Bennett, deputy chief of staff to Emanuel. Williams-Bennett once worked for Barack Obama when he was a U.S. senator from Illinois. Chance’s birth name is Chancellor Johnathan Bennett.
The suit against state officials, filed earlier this month, says that they treat students in Chicago’s public schools, “who are predominantly African American and Hispanic, as second-class children, relegated to the back of the State’s education funding school bus.” A 2015 report by the nonprofit advocacy group the Education Trust found that Illinois’ funding gap between poor and wealthy districts “stands out for its unfairness,” with the highest-poverty districts receiving nearly 20 percent less in state funds than the lowest-poverty districts.
Chicago officials say that the city’s public school district — the third largest in the country — has 20 percent of the state’s students but only gets 15 percent of its funding. In 2015, the Chicago Tribune ran an editorial wondering whether the district would collapse as a result. It hasn’t, but money mismanagement, inadequate funding and failed education policy have created an existential crisis for the district.
The rapper-governor meeting evolved from Rauner’s tweet on Feb. 13 congratulating Chance on winning three Grammy Awards.
The Twitter conversation then went this way:
I’m meeting privately with the governor Wednesday. The two of us will address funding education in Chicago. I’m eager to hear his ideas. — Lil Chano From 79th (@chancetherapper) February 27, 2017
And after Chance the Rapper tweeted that on Monday about the upcoming meeting with the governor on Wednesday, Rauner tweeted again, saying he was “looking forward to hearing” Chance the Rapper’s ideas. Sure.
Incidentally, Chance has shown interest in civic affairs in the past. Last year, he tweeted this: