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Lightfoot dismisses Trump’s latest funding cut-off threat as ‘more hot air’

Lightfoot noted the president has no power to yank federal funding from school systems that embrace the New York Times’ 1619 Project and are using it to study the history of slavery and racism in the United States.

Sixth grade students at Sawyer Elementary School, at 5247 S. Spaulding Ave. in Gage Park, study the New York Times Magazine’s acclaimed “1619 Project” during Black History Month earlier this year.
Sixth grade students at Sawyer Elementary School, at 5247 S. Spaulding Ave. in Gage Park, studied the New York Times Magazine’s acclaimed “1619 Project” during Black History Month earlier this year.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Tuesday dismissed as “more hot air” President Donald Trump’s threat to yank federal funding from Chicago and other school systems that embrace the New York Times’ 1619 Project — which reframes U.S. history through the lens of slavery.

In yet another provocative presidential tweet, Trump proclaimed the U.S. Department of Education would be “looking at” claims that California plans to use the 1619 Project to teach students about America’s history of slavery and highlight the contributions of African Americans.

Trump was responding to a Twitter claim that California had “implemented the 1619 Project into the public schools” and declared: “Soon you won’t recognize America.”

The president responded: “They will not be funded!”

During a news conference to mark the opening day of remote learning at Chicago Public Schools, Lightfoot was asked whether Trump can legally defund school systems adopting the 1619 Project.

“No. It’s just more hot air. … The President has no power to try to take funding from any school district. And if he does, obviously we will see him in court,” said Lightfoot, a prominent Joe Biden supporter who has engaged in a running and bitter war of words with Trump.

“We’re a democracy. And in a democracy, we do not hide or erase our history. The 1619 Project was one that Dr. [Janice] Jackson and CPS embraced. We think it’s critically important that young people of all races and ethnicities and backgrounds understand this important part of American history.”

A few months ago, the City Council approved a resolution championed by the Black Caucus honoring Nikole Hannah-Jones, the New York Times reporter who won the Pulitzer Prize for the 1619 Project.

CPS last year encouraged school administrators and teachers to implement the 1619 Project into their lessons and provided schools with free copies of the New York Times Magazine’s special edition. Some students have since started to learn America’s history of racism and slavery through the project.

Hannah-Jones, explaining the importance of teaching that history in schools, told the Sun-Times in June in the midst of racial justice protests that “I don’t know that a place like Chicago is ready to take on segregated housing, segregated schools, and those larger structural issues that lead to so much disadvantage. But I’ll also say, if you don’t understand the architecture that created and maintained them, then we certainly won’t. So that knowledge has to come first.”

Mayor not happy with huge CPD settlement

Also on Tuesday, Lightfoot joined Chicago aldermen in bemoaning the $3.8 million settlement being paid to a veteran police officer who was transferred to a midnight shift patrolling what she called an “unsafe neighborhood” after reporting a fellow officer had verbally and physically threatened her at work.

Indicted Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) was even more outraged after First Deputy Corporation Counsel Renai Rodney confirmed during a Finance Committee meeting what Laura Kubiak’s attorney had told the Sun-Times: the code-of-silence case could have been settled seven years ago “at no cost to the taxpayers,” simply by putting Kubiak back on the job at News Affairs.

“We need to make sure that we do better to make sure that officers who are reporting misconduct have the support that they need to be able to do that,” the mayor said.

“That is why we were heartened at the gains that we made in the supervisors’ contract around anonymous reporting. And we’re gonna continue to fight that fight as we sit at the bargaining table with the FOP.”

Contributing: Nader Issa