We will spend whatever it takes. Whatever that cost is, we will pay it.”
My head was spinning at 12:30am when I knew the unexpected would happen. The last thing I typed before I went to bed around 2am was the first thing I would say to my eleven-year-old son and my eight-year-old daughter when they awoke:
Chicago Public Schools budget cuts are nothing new, and it was hard to be surprised at the announcement in August that funding for more than 900 positions had been cut this year. What’s easy to miss in these continuing cuts is just how quickly important school resources can vanish. The presence of school librarians has been shown to improve everything from standardized test scores and childhood literacy rates to graduation rates and professional development, yet librarians have been disappearing from CPS.
On the afternoon of October 24, around 150 student activists and allies halted traffic on Michigan Avenue at Adams Street in front of the Art Institute of Chicago during a protest that called for improved funding practices for public higher education. Erica Nanton, an organizer and Roosevelt University alumna, quipped, “Paintings do not come before people.”
As I begin my twenty-first year as an educator, I can honestly say I’ve never before felt the need to defend my profession as I have the last few years. When I started teaching at 22, I got lots of praise for choosing this career. But these days, I’m always on the defensive against so many people who have a negative view of teachers in Chicago Public Schools.
On a sunny July afternoon, four teenage girls are sitting around a table, walled off from the rest of the Chinatown branch of the Chicago Public Library (CPL) by a green curtain. They are reading out lines from Macbeth but, despite all appearances, this isn’t summer school— it’s YOUmedia, one of the first Chicago Public Library programs devoted specifically to teenagers.
For the People Artists Collective (FTPC) is a group of radical artists of color based in Chicago. FTPC consists of artists who also organize who aim to create work that “uplifts…struggle, resistance, liberation, and survival within and for our marginalized communities and movements in our city and our world.” Color Me Rising is a collaboration between For the People and Chicago Childcare Collective. Originally published in 2015 and currently sold out, Color Me Rising is a radical children’s coloring book that tells stories of liberation and resistance in Chicago. In anticipation of the book’s first republishing later this summer, the Weekly has reprinted some of its pages for you and your children to color in and learn from. forthepeoplecollective.org
“In the meantime, public school advocates, rejoice.”