In Chicago, $98 million in charter school graft is “like picking your nose.”
When the story broke last week that Juan Rangel’s United Neighborhood Organization funneled $98 million dollars in state grants to friends and relatives of higher ups in the organization, Patrick O’Connor, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s aldermanic floor leader said, “Nothing being reported means they’ve done anything illegal or improper. It might sound crude, but it’s kind of like picking your nose in public. It looks bad. It’s not classy. But it’s not illegal.”
That’s the Chicago Way.
Like picking your nose.
Unlike Alderman O’Connor, I’m no expert on nose picking. But the story of the $98 million in graft and corruption involving the city’s largest charter operator is a hell of a lot more than pulling a booger from your nose.
- UNO is so close to the Mayor that there is no daylight between them.
- UNO has been awarded 13 CPS contracts for charter schools.
- UNO received $98 million in state grants to build some charters, including a soccer academy in House Speaker Michael Madigan’s district (more on that shortly).
- According to the Sun-Times millions of dollars that UNO received from the state to build charter schools went to four contractors owned by family members of UNO’s political allies and a top UNO executive.
- UNO’s leader, Juan Rangel, first defended the slimy deal. Then claimed he had severed all ties to the dirty contractor, d’Escoto Inc. which is owned by a brother of Michael d’Escoto, a UNO executive.
On Tuesday Michael d’Escoto resigned his position in UNO.
Oh. Did I mention that UNO boss Juan Rangel was co-chairman of Mayor Emanuel’s election committee?
Just like picking your nose.
Oh. Did I mention that UNO’s chief legislative lobbyist, the guy who managed to get the $98 million from the Illinois legislature, held several high-ranking positions in the administration of Richard Daley?
UNO was so greedy that $98 million for their charter schools wasn’t enough. Victor Reyes went back for $35 million more. But some down state legislators had enough and blocked it.
Speaking of Michael Madigan.
But, in checking around, I hear that the guy who really pushed the proposed $35 million grant was House Speaker Michael Madigan, whose district has turned overwhelmingly Latino in recent years and who probably could use one of those new UNO schools in his district. Mr. Madigan — his spokesman did not return calls — was so hot for the grant that he actually tried to add it to some other bills, multiple reliable Springfield sources say.
Mr. Rangel confirms that the money “quite possibly” would have gone for work in Mr. Madigan’s district, where schools are “severely overcrowded.” And guess where that new soccer high school is? At the north end of Mr. Madigan’s legislative district, 5050 S. St. Louis Ave.
So it goes in our fair capital city. Education money is short, and CPS is talking about shutting schools. But those with friends have their ways.
Welcome to the great state of Illinois.
There is more to this typical sleazy Chicago story of course.
Still, many are asking this question. Why does Juan Rangel still get to be the guy in charge of the organization running so many tax-payer supported Chicago charter schools?
The resignations shouldn’t end with Michael d’Escoto.