3 Recommended Positions If Chance the Rapper Ever Becomes Chance the Candidate

The Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) offers suggestions for the Grammy Award-winning artist’s policy platform.

Chance the Rapper has entered the public policy dialogue in Illinois over the past few days. It started last week, when the Chicago native met with Governor Bruce Rauner for a half hour conversation about funding Chicago Public Schools (CPS) – a meeting that left Chance disappointed by the Governor’s “vague answers” and overall inaction regarding the CPS budget shortfall of $215 million.

Then, at a press conference yesterday, Chance the Rapper (also: Chancellor Bennett) donated $1 million to the Chicago Public School Foundation. Chance’s generous donation demonstrates his commitment to education, his community, and the future success of Chicago. Chance has undoubtedly set a positive example that elected officials across Illinois must follow.

This is not the first time that the 23-year old has dabbled in the world of politics. On election night in November, Chance led a “Parade to the Polls” in Chicago. Chance’s father, Ken Williams-Bennett, has worked for then-Senator Barack Obama and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Moreover, Chance has lyrically vocalized:

They say I’m savin’ my city, say I’m stayin’ for good / They screamin’ ‘Chano for mayor,’ I’m thinkin’ maybe I should.

If Chance wishes to go all-in on Illinois politics, research and policy solutions from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) may be useful. Here are 3 Chicago-based policy positions that we recommend for Chance’s platform:

  1. Keep up the fight to fix public school funding.

Illinois’ over-reliance on property taxes to fund K-12 education has caused the state to have one of the most unequal education systems in the country. For every $1 spent on schools in wealthy districts, only 81 cents are spent on students in poorer districts in Illinois.

ILEPI and the University of Illinois have identified alternative ways to fund public education. These include, but are not limited to, the following ideas:

  • A progressive income tax – such as a “Millionaire’s Tax” – which would increase education funding by about $1 billion per year and help the poorest districts most.
  • CPS could also recoup surplus tax increment financing (TIF) funds and reallocate them to schools. Chicago has over $1 billion in surplus TIF funds that could be retrieved.
  • An option that has higher support among younger residents would be to legalize and tax recreational marijuana in the City of Chicago, which (adjusting statewide estimates by Chicago’s share of the Illinois economy) could raise between $85 million and $142 million annually that could be dedicated to schools.
  1. Address African-American unemployment in Chicago with solutions that have proven track records.

ILEPI has also sought to provide solutions to high African-American unemployment in urban counties across America. The Chicago area is among the lowest-performing areas by racial employment and income equality, ranking 65th out of 70 urban areas for black-white unemployment equality.

Among the policies recommended by ILEPI and the University of Illinois for the City of Chicago are:

  • Investing in public transportation infrastructure to improve access to jobs for workers in under-served neighborhoods.
  • Increasing investment in higher education and reducing tuition costs to build a foundation for shared economic prosperity.
  • Reducing reliance on local property taxes to fund public education and using an Evidence-Based Education Funding model.
  • Boosting employment in the public sector, which disproportionately offers a path to middle-class incomes for African Americans.
  • Enforcing anti-discrimination laws and applying a racial justice lens to employment practices.
  1. Expand apprenticeship training and workforce development programs at Chicago’s community colleges.

Construction is the fastest-growing industry in Illinois. In another report with the University of Illinois, ILEPI finds that enrolling in a registered apprenticeship program is a better option than attending college for many young workers. A registered apprenticeship program currently raises a worker’s income by an average of $3,400 annually compared to comparable workers, which is better than having an associate’s degree and some bachelor’s degrees in Illinois. In addition, over the long run, construction apprenticeship programs return $11 in economic and social benefits for every dollar invested in training.

Joint labor-management apprenticeship programs (i.e., union programs) train a higher share of women and people of color than nonunion programs. Recent evidence from New York City exposes this fact, but it is also true in Illinois. Nevertheless, there is still much work to be done to increase participation among women and people of color in communities across the state, including Chicago.

  • The City should work with existing programs to offer pre-apprenticeship programs at public high schools, following the model of the comprehensive citywide construction trades program between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Building Trades at Dunbar Vocational High School to prepare up to 120 student for construction careers.
  • The City should promote partnerships between community-based religious nonprofits and trades unions, following the model of Lawndale Christian Legal Center and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150. This program provides transitional housing and job training for young men who have come through the criminal justice system to help them turn their lives around in good, middle-class careers.

The Governor has failed to do his job on these 3 issues. He has advocated for policy changes that will exacerbate funding shortfalls at public schools, has overseen funding cuts for public colleges and universities, and has openly disparaged public sector workers and labor unions.

If Chance the Rapper ever becomes Chance the Candidate, these 3 policy positions would go a long way towards saving his city and improving Illinois.

Full disclosure: Frank Manzo IV is a late-20s millennial who is a big fan of Chance the Rapper’s work and general outlook on life.

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