Chicago students to skip first day, lobby for cash
September 4, 2008
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CHICAGO–Maurisha Gaiter didn’t raise her two daughters to be honor roll students by letting them skip class.
But that’s what they plan to do Tuesday when the Chicago Public School year starts. And they have their mother’s blessing.
Frustrated with overcrowded classrooms, outdated textbooks and a shortage of computers, Gaiter is sending 11-year-old Maurisha and 14-year-old Sakiijdra into some of the state’s wealthiest suburbs to join hundreds and possibly thousands of other Chicago students in protesting an unequal system for funding schools.
“I don’t want to send my kids to any second-class school anymore,” she said. “If I have to keep my kids out for a whole month, I’m willing to do that.”
State Sen. James Meeks and a group of 85 pastors have been drumming up support for a mass boycott to draw attention to funding disparities in Illinois public schools.
More than a hundred church buses are ready to take thousands of students to Winnetka, where they’ll attempt to register at the affluent New Trier High School and Sunset Ridge Elementary School. Students must pay tuition to attend schools outside their home district.
Like many states, Illinois uses property tax revenue to operate public schools. Property taxes here account for about 70 percent of school funding. Rural and inner city schools generally end up with less to spend per student than suburban schools in areas with higher property values.
Administrators at New Trier High School said they’re preparing for up to 2,000 students from Chicago on Tuesday. Boycott organizers say they plan to set up impromptu classrooms led by retired teachers in the lobbies of area businesses after the first day of protests.