In March 2000, Chicago’s top civic and corporate leaders announced the creation of The Chicago Public Education Fund (The Fund) – one of the first city-based philanthropic venture funds in the nation. From inception, The Fund team was dedicated to achieving the goal of a world-class education for all of Chicago’s children. Inspired by the entrepreneurial principles that transformed the technology sector; these visionary leaders saw an opportunity to revitalize the nation’s third largest school district through strategic investments in education innovators and cutting-edge initiatives that would accelerate student achievement across Chicago. The Fund’s founders sent a strong message about the importance of successful public schools to the city’s future by putting their own reputations and significant dollars on the line.
Founding President and CEO Janet Knupp led The Fund for the first decade of its existence, establishing the organization as one of the most respected philanthropic venture funds in the nation. Once a special education teacher, Janet joined The Fund after leading Communities in Schools of Chicago. She soon became a national leader in the nonprofit venture fund community, attracting attention from many sectors for her pioneering work in Chicago.
Janet worked with founding Board Chairman Scott Smith, former Publisher of the Chicago Tribune, and The Fund’s other directors to establish the principles that guide our work today: venture philanthropy, innovation, collaboration and accountability. Through her leadership, The Fund raised $50 million and invested in a number of transformative initiatives that continue to benefit Chicago’s students. Janet led The Fund’s focus on teacher and principal talent as a key lever to accelerate student achievement, helping to put a national spotlight on their importance in school improvement.
In summer 2011, Janet resigned from The Fund, explaining that the time was right for new leadership since a key partner, Chicago Public Schools (CPS), also was poised for a leadership change.
In March 2012, The Fund’s Board of Directors selected Heather Anichini, also a former teacher in CPS, to succeed Janet as President and CEO. Heather is a product of one of the talent pipeline programs, Teach For America, that The Fund helped bring to the city. In partnership with the Board, CPS and others across Chicago, Anichini is building on The Fund’s storied history as she takes the organization in new directions, re-imagining what is possible for Chicago’s students.