“I can't worry about what my contemporaries are doing. I have to worry about the future of Chicago,” Chancellor Bennett — better known by his stage name, Chance the Rapper — said in a radio interview, back in 2015.
The Grammy-winning artist and Chicago native is putting his money where his mouth is.
The outspoken rapper and noted philanthropist pledged $1 million to the severely underfunded Chicago Public School system after an “unsuccessful” meeting with Gov. Bruce Rauner, aimed at bridging the school system’s $215 million funding gap. So he took matters into his own hands.
Bennett met with Rauner after the governor congratulated him on his three Grammy award wins. He had hoped to get the governor to commit to a solution to bridge the Chicago Public Schools’ funding gap of $215 million.
“The governor gave me a lot of vague answers in our meeting, and since has called me over the weekend. Our talks were unsuccessful,” Bennett said in a Monday press conference, broadcast on Instagram. “Governor Rauner still won't commit to giving Chicago's kids a chance without caveats or ultimatums.”
In December, Rauner vetoed a bill that would have given the school system that much-needed money.
“If the governor does not act, CPS [Chicago Public Schools] will be forced to end school 13 days early, which means over 380,000 kids will not have adult supervised activities in June and could possibly be put in harm’s way,” Bennett said at his press conference.
The Chicago Public School system, which is made up of 516 individual schools, already suffers from a funding structure that privileges wealthier school districts at the expense of the poorest Chicagoans.
“The state's school districts with the greatest number of students living in poverty receive substantially fewer state and local dollars than their more affluent counterparts — nearly 20% less,” the Chicago Tribune reported, citing a study by The Education Trust.
While Bennett’s donation of $1 million does little to bridge the gap, it shined a national spotlight on the public school system’s financial woes.
His philanthropic contribution got the attention of former First Lady Michelle Obama, who tweeted at Bennett:
Thanks @chancetherapper for giving back to the Chicago community, which gave us so much. You are an example of the power of arts education.— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) March 6, 2017
This is not Bennett’s first foray into charitable work, but it is definitely his biggest.
In 2015, Bennett raised over $60,000 dollars to give coats to Chicago’s homeless population, Mic.com reports. That same year, he also raised $100,000 to improve technology in Chicago Public Schools, organized a free Teens in the Park Festival, and took a group of 6- to 11-year-olds on a field trip to local museums.
He will be working with another famous Chicago rapper, Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr. (a.k.a. Common) to come up with a plan to raise more funds for the Chicago Public School system.
Hopefully, his campaign will push politicians to take real action to bridge the funding gap, but in the meantime Bennett is making a critical difference in children’s lives. His organization, CharityWorks, is also donating an additional $10,000 to local Chicago schools for every $100,000 they receive in donations.
Bennett’s work, both in and out of the studio, goes to show just how much of an impact a single artist can have on an entire generation of young people.