The Chicago Public Education Fund has spent more than $50 million on programs to improve Chicago schools. Its current focus is on principals and innovation. Credit: Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Heather Anichini
Heather Anichini

In her recent column in Catalyst In Depth, Sarah Karp opined: “The public has the right to know the costs and the results of initiatives taking place in our schools, with our children, teachers and principals.”

We agree!

Over 15 years, The Chicago Public Education Fund has committed more than $50 million to support the programs and organizations that measurably improve teaching and learning in Chicago’s public schools. The Fund’s website includes the grants we’ve made dating back to 2000, along with each grant’s duration and purpose. Both our website and our publicly-available tax filings were discussed with Ms. Karp as she prepared her column.

Ms. Karp’s column also cited three grants The Fund made in our third funding cycle, which launched in 2008 with the ambitious goal of “creating a city-wide system of great public schools” to serve all students in Chicago.

By midway through that funding cycle, Chicago Public Schools had already seen three CEO departures in quick succession (Arne Duncan, Ron Huberman and Terry Mazany), and other key leadership positions at CPS were vacant or only recently filled. In 2011 and 2012, The Fund made grants to a variety of consultants to ensure that a relatively new CPS administration had the management and data support required to make informed decisions about issues such as capital planning and the expansion of strong neighborhood school models.

By 2013, having seen more change atop CPS, The Fund made a strategic decision to move away from this kind of grant-making. Instead, our fourth funding cycle returned our focus to improving support for principals in schools and educators in classrooms. This school year alone, we committed more than $2.5 million to support 80 school teams in implementing educator-led innovation and to fulfill our commitment to quality leadership in each and every Chicago public school.

And we are sharing what we learn. We released case studies on our Summer Design Program and our recent School Leadership in Chicago baseline report. We will publish similar reports in the future, including case studies focused on local school councils and Common Core implementation at CPS. For the past three years, we have also relied upon the feedback and guidance of our Educator Advisory Committee, which consists of some of Chicago’s best educators.

Approving and supporting this work is The Fund’s Board of Directors, which Ms. Karp noted is made up of many of Chicago’s “most powerful people.” In addition to the directors she mentions by name, our board includes academic and thought leaders in education, former and current educators, and former leaders in city, state and federal agencies. Their combined expertise helps put The Fund on the leading edge of philanthropy, often providing early grants for new initiatives that meet educators’ most urgent and pressing needs.

Ms. Karp certainly did get this right: “The Fund’s current focus is on principals and educational innovation.”

Photo: Public schools concept/

Heather Y. Anichini is CEO of The Chicago Public Education Fund, a nonprofit organization working to grow the number of great public schools in Chicago by seeking out and supporting innovative leaders working to reinvent classroom learning.

Lorraine is the executive editor of The Chicago Reporter. Email her at

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