This unit was created by Jackson Potter, an 11th and 12th grade social studies teacher in Chicago, IL, as part of the spring 2021 Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellowship program on Journalism and Justice. It is designed for facilitation across approximately five 60 minute live or virtual class periods.
For more units created by Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellows in this cohort, click here.
- Empower CPS students and families to influence and shape how the schools and city prioritize the more than $2 billion in federal stimulus funds the Chicago Board of Education has received to address COVID-related impacts.
- Create democratized space to use support a student led budgeting prioritization activity and crowd source / build out citywide student priorities and advocacy
- Surface how racial and economic inequities have worsened during the COVID crisis to identify key issues and areas that require budgetary action and intervention.
- Work and plan across school communities to expand and fortify shared demands / campaigns and tactics to increase their influence over the CPS (and potentially the city) budget process
- Compare and contrast the traditional role that schools play in supporting students and their families and challenge how that role must change in extreme circumstances like COVID-19, and determine whether CPS has adapted enough to support their the needs and interests of our most under-resourced students and families, given the additional funds they have received.
- Should you, your family and communities have influence over federal stimulus money designed to help the most at-risk communities harmed by Covid?
- What would you want to do with $2 billion for the schools?
The Chicago Public Schools typically operate with a $7.7 billion annual budget that now has over $2.3 billion in federal stimulus funding to address inequities, COVID-related impacts and gaping needs. That is a 30% increase beyond a typical CPS budget that normally has very little room to address historic inequities. However, there is no participatory budget process in place to allow students or CPS families to have their voices heard in the process. This unit plan is designed to change that and provide opportunities for students to directly influence the budget process at this critical moment when historic inequities have widened.
Scope and Sequence:
- Lesson Zero: Students will be able to surface the issues and interests that elicit the greatest concern in this moment of COVID-19 — from housing scarcity, vaccine disparities, food deserts, etc. Students will start the process by selecting a news story about how the pandemic has impacted Chicago. This will give classes a baseline of issues to address in their advocacy.
- Lesson 1: Students will begin to wonder about how much money $2 billion is and what they would do with it by dreaming big.
- Lessons 2 and 3: Students will review their class’ top 3 priorities (teachers, use a graph from the google form summary tool), noticing the patterns and discrepancies from their own preferences. Then, they will build a budget (make a copy for each student and review each of the 3 tabs for completion). Students will share their budgets and pie charts and reflect on their priorities.
- Lessons 4 and 5: Bellringer: After reviewing Alderman Jeanette Taylor’s critique of Mayor Lightfoot’s budget, students will consider how they can make their voices heard in the process for the CPS stimulus money. They will select a preferred form of advocacy and form teams to pool together their collective talents and interests to influence the CPS budget process.
- While in Groups, students should fill out their campaign document and then begin creating their action materials. Once students are finished with their plans, they can put them into action with this Think Tac Toe assessment tool.
How can you make your own voice heard in this process for the CPS stimulus money? After students consider their budget priorities and sketch out their campaign plans, they are ready to take action by designing advocacy tools to publicize their positions.
Students select a preferred form of advocacy (they can pick one or add their own)
- Social Media posts
- Office Hours with a member of the Board of Education
- Speak out at a Board of Education Meeting or City Council Meeting
- Action or Protest
- Opinion Editorial to a local newspaper
Students will use their social networks to amplify their voice and gain traction towards their preferred outcomes.
A big thank you and shout out to the Chicago Teachers Union Human Rights Committee for helping inspire this curriculum. Thank you to Hannah Nolan-Spohn at Pulaski International School for inspiring the budget activity which is loosely based on the one she teaches to her middle school students about the city budget
This unit is evaluated with a Think Tac Toe rubric and matrix which is designed to give students plentiful but specific options for expressing their views and making moves to push decision makers to incorporate their priorities into the new CPS budget framework. Students pick their preferred, 5, 10 and 15 point activities in groups to launch their budget advocacy campaigns.
“Before taking action, I felt that my voice was less effective, because I've always heard that there [is more power] in numbers. But after coming together with other students with similar mindsets, I realized that my voice actually had some form of influence, and I found that it wasn't as impossible as it seemed previously...I gained more confidence & felt more informed of what's going on around me. My experience so far has inspired me to continue to advocate and put my voice out there. I hope to continue to advocate to ease my fear of public speaking and make genuine changes that my community can benefit with,”
10th grade student, Back of the Yards High School
Samples of Student Work
Click here to review a 14-page selection of student testimonials, student work, and advocacy initiatives including social media posts (tweets, tik tok video, etc), written letters, and a screenshot of a student speaking with the Chicago Board of education.
Common Core Standards:
6-12 CCSS English and Social Studies #7:
Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem
Writing Standards 6-12: #2
Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
a. Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information so that each new element builds on that which precedes it to create a unified whole; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information.
Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.