Meet An Influential Chicago Couple Digging Into Education Reform

In 2012, chairman of Chicago private equity firm GTCR Bruce Rauner retired to officially dedicate more time to civic on philanthropic interests. In his civic life, Rauner ventured into politics and is currently the Republican governor of Illinois. On the philanthropic side, Rauner and his wife Diana move their charitable contributions through the Rauner Family Foundation, whose annual grantmaking has hovered in the $2 million to $3 million range in recent years.

Rauner has been an outspoken advocate of improved public education for quite some time now, and according to a Chicago Magazine profile, has donated more than $20 million towards these efforts in Chicago alone. Rauner once reportedly wrote that "teacher evaluation is critically important, but in a massive bureaucracy with a hostile union, where 50% of principals are managerially incompetent and half of teachers are virtually illiterate, a complete multi-dimensional evaluation system with huge subjectivity in it will be attacked, manipulated and marginalized — the status quo will prevail."  

The Rauners' work through their foundation largely takes an education reform approach, with strong support of charters and advocacy organizations. They've directed funds to places like A Better Chicago, Chicago International Charter School, Chicago Public Education Fund, Noble Network of Charter Schools, City Year Chicago, Educational Choice Illinois, and Learn Charter School. 

Another important grantee here is Ounce of Prevention Fund, an educational nonprofit for at-risk young children. The organization's work includes "creating and supporting supports research-based early learning programs for at-risk children and their families from before birth to age five," as well as developing, educating, and coaching "practitioners to provide more children with high-quality early education." Diana, who has a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the University of Chicago, serves as president of Ounce of Prevention Fund. 

Rauner and Diana also support their respective alma maters, Dartmouth and Yale. A special collections library at Dartmouth bears the Rauner name, and the couple's daughters also went to the Ivy League school.  

On the policy end, meanwhile, it's worth noting that the Rauners have funded places like Heartland Institute, a libertarian think-tank, and the Illinois Policy Institute, which "supports limited government and free-market principles." The couple's grantmaking also includes environmental and human services organizations. For a full overview of this funder's giving, read our profile and guide below. 

Related: Bruce Rauner 

Related: Rauner Family Foundation: Chicago Grants