In an effort to force the State of Illinois to equitably fund Chicago students, five families and the Board of Education sued Tuesday to declare the State’s separate and unequal education funding systems illegal under the Illinois Civil Rights Act. “Chicago students, who are overwhelmingly students of color, are learning in a separate but unequal system,” CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said. “The message from the State is that their educations matter less than children in the rest of Illinois, and that is both morally and legally indefensible.” The suit is being filed in the Chancery Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, under the Illinois Civil Rights Act of 2003. Under the Civil Rights Act, the State may not “utilize criteria or methods of administration that have the effect of subjecting individuals to discrimination because of their race, color [or] national origin. If the burdens of a State policy fall disproportionately on members of particular racial groups, the State must advance a weighty justification.” The five plaintiff families all have children enrolled at CPS schools throughout the District. The students are between 5th to 9th grade, and their parents are committed to ensuring that not only their children, but all Chicago students, have the resources to provide the education they deserve.
Marlon Gosa, a parent of three Sherman School of Excellence students and one recent Hyde Park High School graduate, serves on the Sherman Local School Council and has seen the difficult choices Sherman has had to make with declining state funding. “There’s no good reason why my daughters shouldn’t have access to the resources that families elsewhere in Illinois take for granted,” Gosa said. “Our schools are doing so much with so little; it’s time for us to see what they can do with the resources they deserve.”
Lisa Russell’s twin sons are seventh grade students at Dvorak School of Excellence in North Lawndale. Lisa serves on the Dvorak Local School Council and is passionate about the school’s capacity to embrace and support all of its students despite scarce resources. “Our school is a beacon of light for so many children in North Lawndale, but there’s only so much we can do with the unfair share we have been given,” Russell said. “Every child in our neighborhood, our city and our state deserves an equal opportunity to learn and grow. I’m proud to stand with the group that is demanding that fundamental right for our children.”
Wanda Taylor is the mother of a ninth grade Lindblom Math and Science Academy student. Wanda has moved her family throughout the city to find the best academic options for her son, but she has repeatedly seen that a systematic lack of resources has prevented her child and his classmates from receiving the supports they deserve. “I am not sitting idly by as another generation of black boys fall prey to the impact of insufficient opportunity,” Taylor said. “The state’s discriminatory funding formula does not grant all of our children the resources they need to live successful lives; now, we take our stand against this injustice.”
Vanessa Valentin is the mother of two CPS students, both of whom have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) to ensure they are able to access a full educational experience. Due to the state’s inequitable funding system, her children’s schools have had to cut back on many of the resources that help address their unique needs. “As a mother of diverse learners, I have seen how Governor Rauner’s cuts have impacted our most vulnerable students,” Valentin said. “My children have the benefit of attending excellent schools, with wonderful staff and supportive cultures, but the state’s discriminatory funding system has put a cap on their potential. So many more of our children would find a productive place in this world if they just had the resources they deserve, and that is why we are demanding an end to this inequity.”
Judith Vazquez is the mother of three CPS students, who attend Clemente Community Academy and De Diego Elementary. Vazquez serves as the chair of the Clemente Local School Counsel and has had to fight for basic resources to overcome the state’s discriminatory funding inequity. “Despite our community’s endless creativity and commitment to overcome the state’s funding failure, it’s an inescapable fact that our kids don’t have access to the basic resources needed for a fair shot at a successful life,” Vazquez said. “Governor Rauner needs to decide if he believes my kids deserve a chance to succeed. Right now, his actions suggest he doesn’t.”