|UNO's former Supt. Juan Rangel (left) with Mayor Rahm Emanuel (Sun-Times photo)|
Although UNO's charter schools are funded with public dollars, Sun-Times Watchdogs had to take legal action to force UNO to release its financial records. What the Sun-Times learned was that the UNO charter schools superintendent, Juan Rangel, and members of his staff were spending taxpayer money like drunken sailors at pricey restaurants and on out-of-state travel, in addition to a plethora of clout heavy lobbyists and consultants who helped the organization snag funding for its charter schools.
According to the Sun-Times, UNO's charter schools received $87 million of the total $91 million in revenues it received during a recent year from state funding. In the year before, Rangel was forced out of his $275,000 a year job after it was learned UNO spent $98 million in state-provided construction dollars for new schools on firms that were owned by Rangel's top deputy and other school officials. In a two-year period alone, Rangel spent over $60,000 on 31 out-of-state trips to places like Nicaragua, Mexico and China, as well as other cities around the country. He also billed over $60,000 on his American Express platinum card as some of Chicago's most expensive restaurants. The school billed a total of over $80,000 for meals at expensive Chicago restaurants. Rangel even billed concession expenses he incurred while attending Chicago Fire major league soccer games at Toyota Park in Bridgeview.
A clout heavy law firm was paid more than $650,000 to lobby officials to obtain funding for UNO. A law firm that contributes heavily to House Speaker Mike Madigan's campaign was paid close to $1 million. An insurance firm that employs the Speaker's son was paid $72,000. A politically-connected PR firm got paid $65,000. UNO spent about $150,000 on a grand opening ceremony for a new charter school that included fireworks, a laser light show and a mariachi band. Another $11,000 was spent busing demonstrators to rallies in support of charter school funding. Gift cards for spa treatments were purchased to give away to employees.
We badly need this kind of reporting in Indianapolis where the media fawns all over the charter schools and the education profiteers behind them who are getting very rich using our tax dollars with virtually zero oversight on how the money is being spent. I don't know about you, but I'm getting sick and tired of the media here spending so much time looking at petty corruption by small-town government officials while they turn a blind eye to the stealing of our public tax dollars by the tens of millions of dollars. The self-dealing going on at these Indianapolis charter schools by these profiteers has got to be exposed.