December 2, 2013

Fund Director Beth Swanson Featured in Crain’s 40 under 40 List

CrainsMayor Rahm Emanuel will get the public praise or condemnation for how he’s shaping Chicago Public Schools, but it’s Beth Swanson who’s in the hot seat to turn the system around.

The mayor credits the education wonk with “driving reform within the city’s youth-serving institutions.”

Since Mr. Emanuel took office, Ms. Swanson has been in the thick of talks with the Chicago Teachers Union over contracts, promoted school closures and championed new programs for preschools and post-high school students.

Longer school days became a mantra for Mr. Emanuel after many discussions with Ms. Swanson during his campaign for mayor.

“We were researching best practices and the issue came up again and again,” says Ms. Swanson, who confesses she was surprised when teachers complained.

Before landing in the mayor’s office, she spent seven years working for CPS under then-CEO Arne Duncan. She helped create the after-school programs familiar to CPS today. When Mr. Duncan left Chicago for his current gig as U.S. education secretary, Ms. Swanson declined an offer to follow him, choosing instead to keep her children in CPS schools. After getting a master’s degree, she won a post with the mayor and promptly found herself across the negotiating table from CTU President Karen Lewis.

Though last year’s public battle between the mayor and teachers was bitter, Ms. Swanson says her regular private meetings with Ms. Lewis were professional and cordial. Ms. Lewis, for her part, didn’t respond to requests to talk about Ms. Swanson.

Ms. Swanson has reformed early childhood education classes, and, looking ahead, she is concentrating on summer learning programs, bringing in industry partners for the science, technology, engineering and math high schools and city college programs.

Originally published by Crain’s Chicago Business

Written by Shia Kapos

Find out what inspires Beth, and see Crain’s complete 40 under 40 list for 2013.