Advocates to IL Governor, Board of Education: Marginalized Students First

May 4, 2020

Contact: Jianan Shi
Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education, 617-838-1420 /

CHICAGO - Education advocates this afternoon asked Governor JB Pritzker and Illinois State Board of Education Superintendent Carmen Ayala to prioritize the use of federal CARES Act funding to reduce racial gaps and other disparities in student learning during and after the COVID 19 crisis.

“To a vulnerable child, school is a lifeline,” said Jianan Shi of Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education. “Whether it’s access to technology, food or e-therapy, we have an obligation to ensure that relief funds are going to those who need it the most and close the widening gaps in education.”

The letter outlines the immediate priorities of PEER IL, an emerging coalition led by Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, Chicago United for Equity, and Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education. PEER IL believes that every child should have an excellent public school in their neighborhood, and that the ongoing disinvestment in neighborhood public education disproportionately impacts children of color and young people living in poverty.

Under the CARES Act, Illinois is slated to receive $678 million in total to meet the needs of students, schools, and education-related organizations. The letter sent by PEER IL and signed by 25 organizations asks the state to focus those funds on helping students who faced barriers before the COVID-19 crisis: low-income children, children of color, children with disabilities, English-language learners, students experiencing homelessness, children in immigrant and migrant families, students in foster care, LGBTQ students, and children in the juvenile justice system.

 “With schools closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year, these children are likely to fall further behind their peers without a plan to prevent or redress equity gaps,” the letter reads.

The letter’s requests include:

  • Creating a Task Force that includes students, parents, educators, and community stakeholders to monitor the state’s education recovery efforts.
  • Requiring the state and local education agencies, including private and public schools, to submit a plan and report on how they use relief funding.
  • Assessing the immediate education gaps in school districts, such as remote learning devices, in order to use relief funding on additional supports for marginalized students.

In addition, PEER IL argues that relief funding must "supplement not supplant" the state’s education dollars – federal crisis funding cannot and should not be used to fill budget gaps.  Advocates fear that without a plan, educational disparities will explode when students transition back to the classroom.  

“This is a first step in addressing learning in an unprecedented crisis,” said Amy Meek of Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. “We know that marginalized children and young people often miss out on learning opportunities and critical programs and supports. PEER IL looks forward to advocating on behalf of Illinois and our students and families to ensure we have the education resources our children deserve.”


The Partnership for Equity & Education Rights (PEER), convened by Education Law Center, is a national network of state-focused legal, advocacy and grassroots community organizations working to expand educational opportunity for marginalized youth. PEER currently counts partners in 7 states, including IL.  

Learn more:


Read the letter to Governor Pritzker and ISBE Superintendent Ayala here.

The signers of the letter as of May 4, 2020, 4PM:

Asian Americans Advancing Justice
Assata’s Daughters
Blocks Together Chicago
Brighton Park Neighborhood Council*
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights*
Chicago Teachers Union
Chicago United for Equity*
Civitas ChildLaw Center, Loyola University of Chicago
Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI)
Educators for Excellence
Equip for Equality

Grassroots Collaborative
HANA Center
Illinois Families for Public Schools
Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago
Moran Center for Youth Advocacy
Northside Action 4 Justice
Parents 4 Teachers
Pilsen Alliance
Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education*
Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP)
Stephanie Farmer, Associate Professor Sociology, Roosevelt University
Teamwork Englewood
* Steering Committee, Partnership for Equity & Education Rights (PEER) Illinois Coalition


Press release from Education Law Center