Budget & Finance Photos

A Photographer’s View of Chicago Schools’ Fiscal Crisis

By Education Week Photo Staff — May 17, 2016 1 min read
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Assistant Principal Alexandra Escobar hugs 2nd grader Analise Rivera, during recess at R. H. Lee Elementary School in Chicago. Escobar is leaving the school, located in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood on the city’s West Side, for a job in a suburban district.

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.

Students enter Lindblom Math & Science Academy at the start of the day earlier this month. The landmark building, which was built in 1917, is located in Englewood, a on Chicago’s South Side.

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.

Lindblom Math & Science Academy senior Ebere Forbes-Wilson, 18, in gray, jokes with classmates on the Chicago school campus. The students recently wrote a song in response to the district’s budget crisis and performed it at a school board meeting. Choir teacher Casey Fuess is in back.

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.

Lindblom Math & Science Academy freshman Kemba Rasul, center, sings during a choir class.

The students are fired up. They recognize how important education is to their futures and the future of Chicago.

Jasmine Curtis, a sophomore at Lindblom, listens during a geometry lesson.

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.

A Chicago Transit Authority train passes through the North Lawndale neighborhood on the city’s West Side.

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Education Week Staff contributed to this article.
A version of this article first appeared in the Full Frame blog.

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