This has been going on for a while. I don't undertand the mentality- fight poor schools by keeping the kids out of school.

Meeks Plans Student Protest On First Day Of School

State Senator And Community Activist Wants Students To Try To Enroll En Masse At New Trier Instead

CHICAGO (CBS) ― Firebrand minister Rev. James Meeks has asked Chicago high school students to ditch the first day of school next month to make a point about school funding.

Meeks said he wants the students instead to show up in affluent Winnetka, at New Trier High School, as a protest over unequal school funding.

Ninety percent of students at CPS high schools are minorities; per pupil spending is about $10,000. At New Trier High School, enrollment is about 90 percent white and per pupil spending is about $18,000. Meeks said there's a connection.

"As African Americans and Hispanics, we're asking all parents of Chicago Public School students to not send their children to school on the first day. ... join us to board buses and enroll your child in the wealthy, well-funded Winnetka school district," Meeks said.

But Chicago Baord of Education President Rufus Williams said the school district needs every child in school on the first day.

Williams said, "Our money is dependent on average attendance. The first day of school is very important because that is the day we have the highest attendance. If there's ever a day that we really pull out the stops to try to get children in school, that's the day we do it."

But state officials said attendance-based funding is based on the best daily average attendance over a three-month period, not just the first day of class. In other words, it'll have no more impact than students taking an extra day for regularly scheduled vacations.

Williams was mild in his criticism of Meeks, a powerful Democratic state senator. "Senator Meeks has been a supporter of public education for some time. It's not the way in which I would have gone about it."

Chicago public high school students were torn over missing school to protest low funding.

One teen said, "I think it's a good idea because if you go and protest a statement that you really want to speak up to, then it will start to grab people's attention.

One girl said, "I don't think you should make that kind of sacrifice and go and encourage students to ditch, because what's going to stop them from ditching even more for another protest?"

New Trier High School District Superintendent Linda Yonke released a statement Monday afternoon that "Senator Meeks' proposed September 2 protest ... appears to pit one district against another. I hope that all concerned educators and citizens can work together to consider the critical issue of school funding, and to find a solution which helps all districts urban, suburban and rural provide a high quality education to their students."

Asked if he was hurting students by asking them to ditch school, Meeks said, "Absolutely not, absolutely not. I'm educating the children, I'm educating their families. They're getting a chance to see they're starting the first day behind the eight ball."

Meeks is a minister first and a lawmaker second, but has always been a supporter of greater funding for education. In 2005, he threatened to run for governor until Rod Blagojevich promised to fight for more school funding.

"He broke his promise," Meeks said Monday. But his decision to lead a group of ministers proposing the first day protest is, to say the least, controversial.

"We need children in school on the first day of school," Williams said, though he admitted he also needs the money to teach them.

"I think this works to elevate that conversation. I hope it does, we need more money," Williams said.

With school funding based on property tax revenue, New Trier can spend $18,000 a student, because it gets $15,000 in local taxes. Chicago, on the other hand has just $10,000 to spend, because it gets just $4600 from the city's far lower tax base.

Meeks said he wasn't upset with New Trier's school system, but with the disparity in funding. "I am happy for the children who have an opportunity to experience New Trier on a daily basis. Shouldn't all children have the same opportunity? And color of skin shouldn't matter and where they live shouldn't matter."

One woman who spoke to CBS 2 said, "I think it makes sense. What's one day they gonna miss?"

Another woman said, "They could find another day, it doesn't have to be the first day of school."

One man said, "Let's leave the kids out of it. I think he is a smart man and has other devices and other tools to get his point across,"

Obviously, Meeks' proposed opening day protest has generated some debate, but should not cost city schools any funding.