My hometown of Chicago has touted itself as a progressive city for many years. We’ve stood firm in our position as a sanctuary city and recently moved towards the legalization of marijuana—pushing a social equity initiative to ensure people in blighted areas have skin in the weed game. We even formed a progressive caucus within the city council in 2013.
We also received national attention and praise for gains in academic performance for public school students. And with the city’s recent adoption of universal pre-k and a fairly new funding formula promising to allocate more money to CPS students, it looks like we’re on track for getting public education right. But as we all know, looks can sometimes be deceiving.
While the report doesn’t dive into the cause of these varying outcomes—and even though Chicago wasn’t amongst the most flagrant offenders—this report absolutely serves as another example of “somethin’ ain’t right.”
I've Never Needed Data, But Numbers Don't Lie
As a Black woman who grew up here, I’ve never needed data to prove these injustices exist—I live, see and fight against them every single day. But numbers don’t lie and this report shows the reality. The fact that in the year 2020, there’s a 28-point gap between Latinx and White students in math and reading proficiency, and even worse, a 36-point divide between Black and White students in Chicago—knowing our students are fully capable of learning when given the proper resources and support—isn’t just a symptom of failed progressivism. It’s the longtime perpetuation of White privilege.
As an education advocate and activist, I’m always down for anything and anybody calling these cities out for their inequities and disservice to Black and Brown students—it gives me more ammunition for when I take shots at our racist public school system.
But this report prompted me to dig a little deeper—and what I realized was that this illusively vibrant and blossoming rose that Chicago calls progressivism actually stems from the rock-solid foundations of White privilege and limiting access to good schools.
When that didn’t work, the district then started busing some of those Latino students to other schools throughout the city, without regard to parent choice, proximity to their home or the school’s academic performance. That practice ended in 2005.
Look, our kids can no longer wait on city leadership and CPS to close these gaps—nor can Black, Brown and low-income families continue to suffer from the prioritization of White privilege in Chicago. I’m shedding light on this plight at the upcoming “Our Kids Can’t Wait” education town hall because as I just said, we can no longer afford to wait.
If you agree, be there and join the voices of many other Chicagoans telling our leadership to do better.
Tanesha Peeples is driven by one question in her work—“If not me, then who?” As the former Deputy Director of Activist Development for brightbeam, Tanesha merges the worlds of communications and grassroots activism to push for change in the public education system. Her passion for community and relentless mission for justice and liberation drive her in uplifting and amplifying the voices and ...