By: Chanae Wood, J.D. Candidate, May 2018, St. Thomas University School of Law.

There is no secret that the city of Chicago has received ample attention for its gun violence.  However, there is another issue that the city is facing.  One that, arguably, is the root of its high crime rate –its public school funding crisis.  Chicago, the nation’s third largest district in the United States, is facing a $215 million budget deficit that can shorten the school year by thirteen days. The district’s proposal to shorten the school year will cause 400,000 students to lose days of instruction and teachers to lose days of pay.  While the district is proposing to save $96 million, teachers are discussing whether to strike.  Discussions of conducting a strike is understandable; considering that it has been two years since the state of Illinois has had an education budget –the longest any state has gone in a century.

As such, the Illinois funding crisis has been the center of attention for community-based organizations.  A recent study conducted by the Urban League, indicated that Illinois is “one of the worst states in the nation for equitable and fair funding of its school by most national measures.” Unfortunately, African American students receive the brunt of the educational system, as they are shortchanged by the system.  In efforts to balance the scales of justice, Chicago Public Schools has filed a lawsuit against the state of Illinois and its Board of Education.  The law suit avers that the state treats Chicago public school students differently, “who are predominantly African American and Hispanic, as second-class children, relegated to the back of the State’s education funding school bus.”

Simply put, these students lack opportunity because of the education system’s financial crisis.   This lack of opportunity directly correlates with violence, according to the University of Chicago Crime Lab report.  Therefore, fixing Chicago’s education system will assist in the fight against gun violence.  While revitalizing or innovating the education system is as mantra as old as time, it is time that policy makers actually take heed.  If we are to see a safer Chicago and a better future for our children, Illinois policy makers must take action now.  Hopefully, the pending lawsuit will be awareness to the racial injustices that are intertwined within Illinois public school system, forcing legislators to act.