Honghe Li was just a typical senior in high school at Northside College Prep in Chicago, Illinois, until his school became in danger of losing vital funding. In the spring of 2010, the Chicago Public School system faced a budget deficit of close to $1 billion. Due to the dire state of the school system, the school system warned of the possibility of
- cutting arts programs
- eliminating all non-varsity sports
- increasing class sizes to 33 students
Fortunately for students, the federal government bailed out the school system with nearly $1 billion at the end of the summer of 2010. However, that didn’t stop Li from deciding to take action with an idea around education.
Honghe Li decided to host a festival where people share their ideas about reforming education. During the first major planning efforts of the event, Li and his team decided to outline what things students must demand from their government’s education system.
“One of the members of our planning group just so happened to be a member on the Illinois Council of Students and she told us about the Student Bill of Rights they were drafting,” says Li. “They were writing it in order to help set standards for education across the state.”
The students from Northside were intrigued by the idea of the Student Bill of Rights . It includes provisions such as:
- the right to qualified, engaged, and passionate teachers
- the right to unfettered access to current textbooks
- the right to adequate facilities that encourage learning
- the right to an appropriate student-teacher ratio
- the right to physical education opportunities and nutritious school meals
Northside’s students also added a Student Bill of Responsibilities in order to offer more balance to the fight for educational equity. They include a student's responsibility to
- attend class and actively participate
- be physically and mentally prepared for school
- respect each other’s right to privacy
- not bully, threaten, vandalize, steal, or commit other crimes on school grounds
“We don’t want to simply be demanding rights,” says Li, “We want to show that as students we know that we have certain standards to adhere to.”
Northside’s ideas festival planning team is holding an education summit at their school on March 24, 2011 where prominent educational leaders will come speak and where students will have the opportunity to facilitate their own workshops on education. This event will further the ideals set forth in these rights and responsibility bills.
“We’ve come a long way," says Li about the summit, "We want the ideas to continue every year at a new festival on education.”
What can you do?
- Green Your School  to improve nutrition, maitenance costs, and eco-friendly aspects of your school.
- Win $5,000  and save your school's music education program.
- Host your own education summit  that improves learning and graduation rates.
- Hold a book drive  to help give everyone the right to proper books.