Thursday, January 22, 2009

Chicago's venture philanthropists

The Mayor's Renaissance 2010 program was hatched in the downtown offices of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago. It was supposed to be about creating 100 new small schools. As it turned out, the initiative is really about closing dozens of neighborhood schools, eliminating hundreds of teachers, closing in-school community service programs and replacing them with non-union charter schools run by entrepreneurs and based on the business model.

It all being bankrolled by an emerging class of venture philanthropists, writes Edweek's Dakarai Aarons ("Rolling up their Sleeves"). This collection of equity-fund millionaires, corporate lobbyists and downtown real estate developers, each have their favorite charter schools or vertically-integrated programs that they contribute to. The list also includes people like Helen Zell, the executive director of the Zell Family Foundation and the wife of Sam Zell, the real estate magnate who has driven the Tribune company into bankruptcy.
"We can all write checks," said Bruce V. Rauner, the principal of GTCR Golder Rauner, a multibillion-dollar private-equity and venture-capital firm here. "Venture philanthropy goes beyond feeling good and trying to be helpful, to being very focused and demanding results."
Did he say "demanding results." Well, he's the education chair of the Civic Committee, the shadow government in Chicago, so I guess he can demand whatever the hell he wants.

Oh, BTW, Aarons puffy no-questions-asked Edweek piece is underwritten by the Wallace Foundation. Don't worry though. It's just the business model rolling up it's sleeves.


  1. See some of the "results" here:
    Labor Beat: The Struggle Against Renaissance 2010

  2. In Portland Oregon we call them "activist philanthropists." It seem like their life's work is privatizing any public space they can lay their hand on.


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.