Cashing in, getting extras

Only 18 of the city’s public schools—less than 3 percent of some 600 elementary and high schools—have parent or community affinity groups that have raised more than $50,000 in any of the past three years. There’s a vast difference in bottom-line impact between such well-heeled and connected groups and the parent organizations in most other schools.

Chart: Partners give big bucks

Of the $7.5 million Renaissance Schools Fund says it has given to schools to date, over $4.7 million went directly from corporations to schools, and a sizeable chunk of the rest was targeted to particular schools through the group’s matchmaking efforts.

Chicago-style reform sells

Mayor Richard M. Daley (left) with the chairman of the Chicago Public Education Fund, Timothy R. Schwertfeger.

Since CEO Arne Duncan took the helm, private and government grants have skyrocketed from $2 million to $29 million. Funders say that steady leadership and a focus on crafting long-term improvements is what’s paying off for the district.

Principals have different takes

As school budgets shrink, two CPS principals whose schools are just a couple blocks apart on the South Side have decidedly different approaches to how they fill in the gap.

PTO puts the ‘fun’ in fundraising

The PTO at Owen Scholastic Academy sponsors after-school activities for students and their families every month, and at the end of the year they host events to congratulate students and teachers for doing good work. Sometimes these events make a profit, but those proceeds are ploughed back into other fun things to do, never spent on supplies, teachers or equipment for the school, which members believe should be covered by public education funding.

What a difference deep pockets make

Parents at Norwood Park Elementary, like those at any public school, worry about whether Chicago Public Schools has enough money to provide the best education for their children, But unlike others, they have someplace else to turn: local businesses and their own deep pockets.

‘A place you can call your own’

Corporate-school partnerships are being driven to the forefront of donor cultivation strategy at the Renaissance Schools Fund, which aims to raise $50 million for startup grants. Two years into the initiative, Renaissance Schools Fund has passed the halfway mark. It is making headway by focusing most of its resources on matchmaking new school operators directly with donors, and taking a backseat once those relationships are made.


A collection of facts, figures, and news briefs about school reform—both in Chicago and around the country.

Q&A with Dan Zaragoza

Problems with violence and discipline are nothing new at Kennedy High, says senior Dan Zaragoza, who participated in last month’s student-led protest for better security at the Garfield Ridge school. This year’s freshmen, including transfer students from the attendance areas of schools that closed, were especially disrespectful and unruly, he says.