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The [UNO] Papers

"My first encounter with the political machinery of the United Neighborhood Organization Charter Schools network came last spring when I was poking around in an Illinois House race on the Southwest Side," Mark Brown writes for the Sun-Times.

"I was curious as to why a certain Misty Gillian of Auburn, Ind., had donated $1,500 to Silvana Tabares, a Democratic legislative candidate being backed by UNO CEO Juan Rangel and other charter school advocates.

"Was Gillian such a big believer in charter schools that she had taken an interest in Chicago inner-city Latino politics, I wondered?

"When I left a phone message for Gillian, however, I received a quick return call from her husband, who offered a more familiar if mundane explanation for his wife's political activity.

"Kevin Gillian said his company, TFC Canopy, was the subcontractor that had supplied the shiny aluminum panels for the exterior of UNO 's sparkling new soccer-themed elementary school at 51st and Homan. It was in that capacity that he had been solicited for a campaign donation - and gladly complied, he said."

*

Brown's column follows Monday's package on UNO in which the Sun-Times documented how the charter school behemoth is making a fairly familiare coterie of insiders rich. (See this graphic.) I'll add that they're doing so without much - if any - evidence that they're teaching kids any better than the Chicago public schools they are essentially replacing.

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See also this excellent work from the Reader:

* UNO's Juan Rangel Sweet-Talks City Club.

* UNO's Juan Rangel Does A Damn Good Chris Christie Impression.

* Fighting For The Right To Fire Bad Teachers - And Good Ones Too.

* The Reader Goes To Charter School: A Visit With UNO's Juan Rangel.

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Meanwhile:

"Construction of a charter high school in Chicago's Gage Park neighborhood reached a milestone Tuesday even as its operators fended off criticism from one parents group about its finances," the Tribune reported last month.

"More than 100 parents, students and community members including Ald. Edward Burke, 14th, huddled in a heated tent and watched laborers hoist the last major piece of steel for the UNO Soccer Academy High School in the 5000 block of South St. Louis Avenue.

The school, which will seat 960 students, cost roughly $31 million, which came out of $98 million the United Neighborhood Organization received from the state in 2009 to build schools and relieve overcrowding in Hispanic communities. It was the largest state subsidy ever given to a charter school network.

"Last week, the parent advocacy group Parents United for Responsible Education filed a complaint with the Illinois inspector general's office, asking it to look into how the funds are being spent by UNO. PURE's executive director said UNO has not been transparent enough about the money's use."

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And from the opening of a sympathetic "Executive Profile" of Rangel in the Trib last fall:

"As America's banking system began to freeze in mid-2008, Juan Rangel's nonprofit United Neighborhood Organization was in trouble.

"Because of a gubernatorial funding veto, the Latino group, which runs one of Chicago's largest charter school networks, was running out of money. Its contractors were about to walk off a three-school construction site, and its bankers were balking at extending loans.

"Rangel, who said he was scared, turned to Ald. Edward Burke for help. Not only is Burke Chicago's most powerful alderman, his 14th Ward on the Southwest Side is majority Latino and home to the jeopardized construction project.

"Within days, Burke summoned executives from three banks to City Hall. He put them in a conference room with Rangel, his two attorneys and three elected officials, all UNO allies, and told the bankers not to leave until Rangel got what he needed. The resulting $65 million loan, which closed in June 2008, saved UNO from ruin.

"This being a tale of Chicago politics, the story doesn't end there. Less than two years later, Burke's brother, Illinois state Rep. Dan Burke, found himself in a tough re-election campaign against Mexican-American Rudy Lozano Jr. At Edward Burke's request, Rangel backed the Irish clan, lending his name to a mailer, introducing Dan Burke to voters and getting people to the polls."

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Finally, from WBEZ, 2009:

"The United Neighborhood Organization is hosting a rally at its Veterans Memorial School campus with food and prizes. When kids and parents show up . . . they'll hear how important it is to go to school. But there will also be speakers from Chicago 2016 pushing the Olympic bid.

"UNO Chief Executive Officer Juan Rangel doesn't see any conflict in tying a back-to-school rally to the Olympics . . . He serves on a council that helps promote the Olympic bid and reaches out to the community."

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Comments welcome.



Permalink

Posted on February 5, 2013


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