New Venture Fund to Focus on CPS Education Reform

Judy Hartnett's picture
Thursday, June 21, 2012

A new venture fund devoted to education reform efforts in Chicago's public schools is being proposed by a group of civic leaders under the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

A group of 20 midcareer professionals brought together by the council from the corporate, nonprofit and government sectors hopes to create the fund as a way to better prepare Chicago Public Schools students to compete in the global economy.

But even as the group, which includes Sonya Anderson of the Ounce of Prevention Fund, Paul Bauerschmidt of CME Group and Gillian Darlow, a principal at the Civic Consulting Alliance, announced the proposed $10 million nonprofit at a downtown event Tuesday at the InterContinental Chicago hotel, the Chicago Teachers Union passed out leaflets outside the hotel protesting the venture.

Critics of reform efforts in Chicago say many of the well-funded initiatives to fix CPS involve opening more privately run charter schools and closing down the district's traditional neighborhood schools.

"Venture philanthropy is a slow road to privatization," CTU President Karen Lewis said in a news release. "Right now, CPS is a revolving door of people peddling expensive, disruptive and ineffective privatization and so-called reform. If we are going to improve our schools it should be with educators and the CTU, not venture capitalists and those who are only out to make a profit."

The new fund, ELP Ventures, would join the ranks of other education reform groups that are also built on the venture fund model of philanthropy. The Chicago Public Education Fund, created in 2000, focuses on improving teacher quality in Chicago Public Schools. And New Schools for Chicago, formerly the Renaissance Schools Fund created in 2004, has been the lead funder of many new charter schools in the city.

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