Aim is to influence Illinois General Assembly

Public education funding in Illinois is in a precarious situation. Throughout the state, public school families are concerned about the future of their schools and the quality of their education. The state of Illinois is facing a huge deficit in the upcoming fiscal year and is going to need strength, political courage and creativity in its leadership in Springfield to help get the state back to more solid economic footing.

Chicago Public Schools faces a challenging budget deficit of its own. One worst-case but not implausible scenario could mean hundreds of teachers laid off, class sizes of nearly 40 students, a 20% cut in charter school funding across the board, and the dismantling of early childhood, bi-lingual, and after-school programs. Such an outcome would represent an enormous loss for the public school students in our city.

In March, the Chicago Debate League encouraged its schools to help make the case in Springfield that full and fair funding for public education is essential. The CDL has called its debaters into action because it is precisely a program like the CDL, one that our students vitally need, that can become vulnerable to cuts when budget pressures become this great.

The CDL has asked its students to apply the rhetorical and persuasion skills that they have developed and sharpened in policy debate to advocate in front of real policy-makers in the Illinois General Assembly. Nearly 150 students from 34 schools have participated in the letter-writing campaign thus far. Here are a few of the students’ statements that we forwarded to legislators in the state capitol, in coordination with CPS’s own advocacy campaign:

“Debate is personal to me because throughout the school years there have been times when I have struggled academically and struggled to make a financially unstable and unsupportive home life and I have been able to overcome my obstacles because debate gave me purpose. The experiences of seeing what success could look like in my future motivated me to work hard.”
— Muriel Dorsey, Senior, 18, Prosser Career Academy

“It is through the skills of debate that I have been able to talk myself out of violent situations. Debate has instilled in me a sense of pride and I ask that you please do not take that away from me. It is because of debate that the importance of education has expanded to a more wider horizon for me.”
— Edward Ward, Junior, 17, Orr Academy H.S.

“I can certainly say that debate has been the best academic activity I could have been engaged in. I have won several tournaments and speaker awards. Debate has improved my reading, speaking, and analytic skills; debate has helped me with my grades and I believe debate has changed the way I understand life in general. Debate has helped me to get to the University of Illinois at Chicago with a full-ride scholarship.”
— Monica Garcia, Senior, 17, Kelvyn Park H.S.