Why did Chance the Rapper give $1 million to Chicago public schools?

The announcement followed Chance's meeting last week with Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner to discuss the governor's decision to overturn a ruling that would have provided $215 million in additional funding to Chicago public schools.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP
Rapper Chance announces a gift of $1 million to the Chicago Public School Foundation during a news conference at the Westcott Elementary School, Monday, March 6, 2017, in Chicago.

Rihanna, the pop singer who accepted Harvard University's Humanitarian of the Year award last Tuesday, is apparently not the only artist dedicated to philanthropy work. Amid an ongoing funding battle, Chance the Rapper announced on Monday that he would donate $1 million to the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system.

As the city’s funding crisis continues to threaten a shorter school year for some 400,000 students, Chance, who hails from Chicago, said he hopes his donation will be "a call to action" for others to help the troubled school system "for the interest of the children."

"This check is a call to action," he said at a press conference held at Westcott Elementary School. "I'm challenging major companies in Chicago and across the United States to donate and to take action. The students have spoken and would like corporations to invest in them as we have invested in their businesses."

The generous donation, which draws from Chance's ticket sales for his upcoming tour, has been applauded by former First Lady Michelle Obama, who called the rapper "an example of the power of arts education."

The announcement came four days after Chance met with Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, who in December vetoed a bill that would have delegated $215 million in funding to the CPS system. The state hasn’t approved a full budget in two years. 

Alleging inadequate funding that "violates students’ rights," the CPS system filed a lawsuit against Mr. Rauner and the Illinois Board of Education last month. The district, which is the third largest in the country, warned last week that it would have to make cuts to its summer school program and shorten the school year by about 3 weeks, which would save roughly $96 million, if the state does not intervene. 

Chance on Monday called the ongoing battle over CPS funding a political move by Rauner. 

"Gov. Rauner still won’t commit to giving Chicago’s kids a chance without caveats or ultimatums," the rapper said. "Our kids should not be held hostage because of political position."

Rauner, a wealthy philanthropist who has donated to public schools, suggested the two work together to solve the issue after Friday’s meeting. 

"Chance was very focused on getting quickly more money for CPS right now, and I share his passion," Rauner said on Friday, as reported by CBS Chicago. "I said it’s an incredible opportunity to change our system. If we stood together, Chance, I have some power. I have power in some ways, you have great power in other ways. If we stood together, work together to figure this out, I think we could get big things done, and I’d be excited to do that with you."

For now, Chance – whose birth name is Chancelor Johnathan Bennett – is taking his own approach. He announced on Monday that for every $100,000 raised, SocialWorks, a local non-profit organization he co-founded, will donate $10,000 directly to a specific public school in Chicago, in order to continuously help meet the funding gap in the system. 

The Westcott Elementary School, whose students are predominantly black and poor, will receive the first check. 

"This isn't about politics. This isn't about posturing. Everybody knows about what's going on in Chicago," Chance said. "But we're about to enhance the conversation. As a private citizen, as a parent and as a product of CPS, I'm asking that you guys join and fight with me, organize with me, mobilize with me, for the interest of the children of Chicago. This is the very beginning."

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