Photographer Alyssa Schukar shares her favorite images and her experiences working on a recent story about the Chicago schools’ funding crisis for Education Week.
Working as a photojournalist in Chicago, I’m often sent into the city’s public schools schools to visually document life in the embattled district. The last year has been particularly tumultuous for the schools, especially with the Illinois budget crisis, and a corruption scandal that lead to the ousting of former Chicago schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. Just last month, the teacher’s union held a one-day strike, demanding Illinois lawmakers fund public education. Currently, officials are considering the biggest budget cuts in district history.
All of this bad news can make for depressing pictures, but when I visit Chicago schools, I see hope rather than despair. I don’t see downtrodden students, teachers, and administrators. I see Chicagoans who care deeply and are eager to create change from the inside.
I loved sitting in on a girls’ choir class taught by Casey Fuess, the choir teacher at the Lindblom Math & Science Academy, a selective-enrollment high school on the South Side. Some of his students — including those pictured above — created a song titled “When We Gonna Change?” about the budget crises.
The students are fired up. They recognize how important education is to their futures and the future of Chicago.
In a city that is on pace for one of its most violent years in decades, I believe we need these inspired and engaged youth to help us become better.
Education Week Staff contributed to this article.
A version of this article first appeared in the Full Frame blog.