Chicago Foundation for Education: Grants for Chicago

OVERVIEW: The Chicago Foundation for Education has a handful of grantmaking programs, workshops and fellowships designed to make Chicago Public School teachers more effective in the classroom.

FUNDING AREAS: Education, public schools, elementary schools

IP TAKE: The Chicago Foundation for Education is all about getting back to basics. This is the foundation to apply to for classroom materials and practical training. Keep in mind that the grant amounts are small and heavily emphasize teacher improvement.

PROFILE: In 1985, Joyce Rumsfeld, wife of U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, established the Chicago Foundation for Education with a small group of concerned citizens. This was a time where Chicago’s public schools were considered to be some of the worst in the country. In addition to serving on the board of directors for the Rumsfeld Foundation, Joyce has served on the Big Shoulders Program at the Archdiocese of Chicago, the National Advisory Council of Character Education Partnership, Inc., and the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for Improvement of Post-Secondary Education. The funder’s goals are “enhancing teacher expertise, developing their leadership capacity, and creating learning communities.”

This funder offers grants and professional development opportunities to Chicago Public School (CPS) teachers. The foundation has established five grant programs and a teacher workshop to help innovate curriculum and replicate effective methods in the city’s public schools. The foundation’s Small Grants program provides grants up to $600 for books, supplies, field trips, and other learning resources. This program is open to unsolicited applications, and relevant dates and deadlines are listed on the foundation website. CFE volunteers evaluate each application to assess how teachers determine their student's needs.

Another source of CFE funding is the Study Group Coach grant. These grants are awarded to Pre-K to eighth grade teachers who want to share successful teaching approaches with other Chicago Public Schools teachers. Coaches mentor study groups of six to eight teachers during two-day training sessions that utilize scholarly articles, work samples, and media presentations. These grants are for up to $1,000, and CFE usually gives out a few dozen of these. Teachers can also apply for grants up to $300 to be a Study Group Team Member. Grantees are supposed to use that money to purchase instructional classroom materials based on what they’ve learned in the sessions.

The foundation offers an annual “Teachers as Leaders and Learners” workshop to over 500 Pre-K to eighth grade educators. The CFE Fund for Teachers Fellowships offers grants for Pre-K to 12th grade Chicago public school teachers to engage in summer fellowship experiences, often among diverse cultures in different countries. Individual teachers can receive up to $5,000 for these fellowships. Other opportunities for teachers are the Action Research Leadership Institute Fellowships and Fund for Teachers Fellowships. Additionally, the foundation awards Character Education Grants for teacher liaison and teacher-to-teacher initiatives.  

Award typically amounts range between $100 and $1,000, depending on the program. Past grantees are listed on each of the funding program pages. Grantmaking is restricted to Chicago public school teachers.

All grant programs are open to unsolicited applications, and deadlines are posted on the foundation’s website. To see which grant programs are currently accepting teacher applications, check out the foundation’s Apply Now! section. General inquiries can be directed to 312-670-2323 or


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