Sunday, October 20, 2013

Leave your poor sister UNO alone!


Let's get this straight:
  • Juan Rangel, who stepped down from both UNO's school and community boards when the first scandal unfolded, is still CEO. He was co-chairman of Rahm Emanuel's 2011 mayoral campaign, and coincidentally, Rahm Emanuel is a big proponent of charter schools.
  • Martin Cabrera, Jr.--the founder and CEO of Cabrera Capital--the supposed UNO-reformer, resigned last month. Instead of citing the tired excuse of more time with the family, he resigned over a "difference in philosophy and mission." Perhaps he felt more public money could be used for private enterprise.
  • Miguel d'Escoto, a senior VP at the company school, resigned after it was discovered he gave contracting jobs--under a $98 million state grant--to his brothers. Just in case you were about to get mad about how the brothers of a VP got state grant money, don't. Proper hiring practices were followed, sillies.
  • Juan Rangel continues to draw his $250,000 salary for doing 2/3 less work. 
  • Martin Cabrera still sits on the Public Building Commission's Board of Commissioners whose chairperson is Rahm Emanuel. Conflict of interest, anyone?
  • Nobody is talking about revoking UNO's charter for obvious mismanagement

A quick internet search of UNO returns the following words: clout-heavy, corruption, SEC violations, and cronyism. Ah, Chicago politics. Or is it Chicago education? We're not sure anymore. 

Cynics that we are, we wondered why more people haven't been talking about this since the charter school industry has made itself beyond reproach with all of the proven unproven things they do better than the same as traditional schools. But, then there's the Sun Times editorial on October 18th which defends charters. Maybe since it was the Sun Times who first outlined the scandal, they were feeling sorry for UNO. The public is urged to withhold judgement. After the first few paragraphs, we had to go straight to our fainting couch to finish the article. We read it so you don't have to. Here's what we learned:
  • The charter school landscape in Chicago is "beleaguered." Can anything that is backed by the likes of Bruce Rauner, Rahm Emanuel and the Pritzkers be considered "under siege"? When organizations enjoy decision-making with almost no oversight, get to make up their own rules, and have city officials green lighting ill-conceived schools, it doesn't seem like they are hemmed in.

  • According to the fabulists who write at the Sun Times, charters are having a hard time finding affordable real estate. They need lower real estate prices (don't we all), so they don't have to borrow from their instructional dollars to build or update their facilities. Funny, but CPS schools need instructional dollars so badly that some schools decided to forgo toilet paper

  • Funding for charters is only "modest." We wonder if the editors over at the Sun Times know what modest means since charters received 12% more funding from CPS this year versus last. We agree with Trib's more accurate description of funding for UNO as a money spigot.

Readers are admonished for thinking anything negative about charters, and we're reminded they too are our public brethren. They too are plagued by inadequate facilities because they have to be extra choosy when selecting real estate so as not undermine neighborhood schools. The editors must have been too busy writing love letters to Juan Rangel to notice what Noble Street is trying to do to Prosser.

The editors at the Sun Times may not have a command of the English language or reality since their proclamations stand in stark contrast to our experience. There are no money spigots flowing into CPS, neighborhood schools and their teachers grow more beleaguered by the day, and those of us teaching in CPS must constantly justify our salaries/pensions/existence to any and everyone.

Readers: what do you think? Does the public need to be nicer and more understanding of charters?

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