The disgraced UNO Charter Schools once again hit the headlines this past week after expense accounts revealed that officials racked up $60,000 restaurant bills and big-time travel expenses.
All on the tax payer’s dime.
The Chicago Sun-Times forced the United Neighborhood Organization Charter group to open its books and reveal what it was spending its money on. UNO, like many charter schools, has resisted transparency by arguing they are a private entity.
Yet when it comes to educating children they are a public school.
The UNO Charter network mishandled millions of dollars in public money when it handed big construction contracts to two brothers of a top UNO officer which forced the director Juan Rangel to resign in disgrace.
Rangel had served as Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s election campaign manager the first time he ran.
The amazing fact is that while the state has no money today, House Speaker Mike Madigan helped sponsor a $98 million state grant about seven years ago to this corrupt charter empire.
UNO has some big friends. They even opened charters in New Orleans.
UNO and Rangel’s spectacular fall mirrored former Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett who pleaded guilty to taking kickbacks.
Rangel and Bennett were merely two minority faces helping the business class dismantle public education and force privatization via closing schools (Bennett) and creating loosely-regulated charter schools (Rangel).
When it comes to supporting charter schools, which pay teachers less, overemphasize testing and are less regulated, both Chicago dailies have been enthusiastic cheerleaders.
While the Chicago Tribune editorials have always supported creating more charter schools in the city, the Sun-Times did sound a note of caution when the charter craze hit the city about 10 years ago.
They warned in an editorial to not give Aspira any charter schools because the director was called out for awarding his non-profit organization contracts while he served on the Roberto Clemente High School local school council.
The Aspira Charter School corruption scandal hit the headlines about eight years ago when the school was hit with a federal lawsuit for strip searching its female students.
CPS told the media that it happened because they couldn’t regulate charter schools like regular public schools.
The former director Jose Rodriguez, who was rumored to be called the godfather of City Hall during the Daley regime, did the same thing as Rangel did – rack up high-expense accounts and take regular trips to Puerto Rico, all on the taxpayers dime.
How’s that for deregulating the schools like we deregulated Wall Street.
Rodriguez and Rangel made more money as charter directors than the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools.
That tells you who is more powerful.
I first started to expose charter school corruption when I interviewed many teachers and students who told me all about the shenanigans happening. Crazy expense accounts that had nothing to do with education, a revolving door of teachers and principals, out-of-control classrooms, etc.
The parents at the first Aspira Charter Middle School that was supposed to be a regular public school in Albany Park started a blog about all the problems.
They said the $25 million newly-built school was run by incompetent administrators where gangs had almost free run of the school and teachers who questioned their labor practices were literally driven out in orchestrated witch hunts.
UNO and Aspira played a big role in politics because they could round up buses filled with voters and agitators. It was pay back to award them lucrative charters until the gig blew up.
By Jim Vail