Let Lori Lightfoot know where we want our $2 billion to go!
Let Lori Lightfoot know where we want our $2 billion to go!
Dear Mayor Lightfoot,
It is no lie when we say that Chicago Public School (CPS) students suffer the most from underfunded and segregatory schools. As incoming college freshmen who have been students of CPS for 12 years, we have experienced the effects firsthand of not having the necessary resources in our schools to help make us feel comforted and supported. The lack of a consistent nurse at our high school, Whitney Young, made receiving adequate medical care a gamble. Our social workers were already limited and as the year went on, it felt that we had less and less people who could support us emotionally. Although we faced these challenges, we were still extremely privileged at Whitney Young as many of our funds come from donations from outside sources. But this is a privilege that CPS schools in the south and west side rarely get access to. Many of these schools lack the necessary resources for our students, disproportionately and intentionally black and brown, to succeed. With a lack of teachers, support, and funding, our schools slowly wither away into a distressing place for our students as they are faced with only disadvantages and shortcomings in their academic career.
This year CPS is receiving the largest sum of money it has ever received by the state to help with COVID-19 relief. We believe that we must advocate and fight for the proper and just allocation of these $1.8 billion as our students are the most impacted by this change. This money was given to CPS in order to cover costs such as cleaning, PPE, and testing. And yet, districts have not received the funding. We believe that this sum can have an even greater, more positive impact when put towards our schools.
We believe that one way the money should be used is to fund full time nurses and social workers, the most important resources for our students physical and emotional health. All of our students should have a consistent space to go to when they feel ill, they should not have to worry if they can withhold a painful stomach ache that disrupts their school day because a nurse wasn’t able to be there that day. They should be able to have full time social workers that are trained with the tools necessary to make sure our students are in safe nurturing environments at all times. And while social workers can help our students' emotional health, we need full time counselors and therapists so that our students have safe spaces to talk about their mental health so that they can thrive in all environments, not just school. Our low income students may not be able to have access to mental health professionals because of finances and many times, students are dealing with not only home responsibilities, family dilemmas, and school stress but also gun violence which can make going to school very challenging, emotionally taxing, and even traumatizing.
We must also use these funds to increase accessibility for our disabled students. Our disabled students should be able to have safe, new elevators to be able to access all parts of their schools to have a successful school day just like any other able bodied student. Our disabled students should be able to have access to programs that make their learning experience memorable as well as one where they can interact with other students who do not have disabilities. Art programs like Best Buddies Art allow our disabled students to have fun and connect with other students they might have never gotten the chance to interact with before. It's also important to note that our special needs students have suffered the most throughout remote learning. Remote learning has not been as effective or engaging for many of our students and it has been even harder for our special needs students whose parents already tackle the challenge of not only providing care for their child but also making sure that their child is still learning at the same rate as anyone else. Additionally, it can be hard for our disabled students to have individuals at home who can consistently be there to aid them in logging on or getting the necessary materials they need for class. If a parent or sibling is unable to help our students, they can miss out on important parts of their school day as well as their learning. It is important that CPS recognizes this and works to provide solutions to this challenge so that our special needs students have the same access to their learning as any other student.
We also believe that the money can also be used to implement visual and performing arts programs and corresponding teachers in every school. Many of our students are such talented individuals who are being kept from further developing their talent simply because schools still don’t see the arts as something worthy of investing into. Arts programs help our students become even more well rounded individuals and open up doors to skills and opportunities they would have otherwise not had without them. Each day more and more research proves that art can help greatly with mental health and in enhancing brain function. To invest in the arts is to invest in the development of talent and skill for our students.
We recognize how difficult and traumatizing this year and last year have been for our black and brown students. Everyday the news comes out with a new article of another black and brown life lost. We believe that it is necessary and extremely valuable for our classrooms to teach a more inclusive history curriculum about black and brown people. Our students must learn real black and brown history, not one tainted by white supremacy and colonialism. Our students must learn the truth in history that our whitewashed history books mask but they must also learn about all the triumph, success, and important contributions that black and brown individuals have made for this country. Our black and brown students should not only be talked about in classrooms when students are being taught about the trauma and struggle their ancestors endured but they should be allowed to learn about all the amazing things their ancestors were able to do too. Black and brown students should be able to see pictures of people in their teacher’s presentations who are just like them who have led successful and fulfilling lives and be able to celebrate them with pride and joy.
Our schools need librarians that are present everyday. Even as a highly ranked selective enrollment high school, we have never had a full-time librarian at any point of our high school experience, which shows how little importance schools put on libraries for students to enjoy studying. Apart from this, students need restorative justice programs to minimize the process of the school to prison pipeline, one that our black and brown students are too frequently funneled through. By providing a Restorative Justice Coordinator, a school will have an individual responsible for pointing out how schools can better support students, and be advocates for students that go unnoticed. Our schools need to aid houseless students through the use of housing vouchers, a student should not have to worry about where they will sleep everyday while getting their education. Houseless students are students that go to school everyday for the sole reason of receiving a proper education, so it would only make sense for schools to in turn provide an option and the opportunity for these students to live in rented spaces and public housing.
We need these resources in each and every school. Not just the schools in the north side, not just selective enrollment high schools but all CPS schools no matter what type of ‘tier’ neighborhood.
If children are the future, we must prove it to them. We must give our students the ability to create their own journey of success with the tools we give them and depriving them of this would be unjust and inefficient. Having funds go towards these issues will be one step forward in the right direction, so future students will reap the benefits of a just and abundant school experience. How can students succeed when continuously denied the resources to do so?
Please sign this petition to help our voices be heard by Mayor Lightfoot. The time is now for our youth to be heard!