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Under the bus he goes

Wednesday, Feb 13, 2013

* As I told you the other day, the heat is really on UNO right now. Their $35 million construction grant was deleted from the mini capital bill approved by the General Assembly this month because of all the bad publicity. After dismissing questions about conflicts of interest as no big deal, the politically connected group is now apparently trying to get this matter behind them so they can eventually get that state cash

The No. 2 executive of the United Neighborhood Organization quit Tuesday, eight days after the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the politically influential charter school operator paid state grant money to companies owned by two of his brothers.

Miguel d’Escoto, who was UNO’s senior vice president of operations, resigned “by mutual agreement” in a letter submitted Tuesday evening, said the group’s CEO, Juan Rangel. […]

Rangel said UNO’s contracting process “followed the law.”

“However, we want to avoid even the appearance of conflicts of interest,” said Rangel, who was a co-chairman of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2011 campaign.

D’Escoto was paid $200,000 a year by UNO and had worked for it for six years, public records show. He previously was a city transportation commissioner in the administration of former Mayor Richard M. Daley.

D’Escoto’s brothers were paid with state funds under a $98 million grant UNO got to build new schools. The Sun-Times reported Feb. 4 that UNO’s contractors under the grant included d’Escoto Inc. — owned by former UNO board member Federico “Fred” d’Escoto — and Reflection Window Co., owned by Rodrigo d’Escoto.

Rangel said Sunday UNO would stop doing business with d’Escoto Inc. until after the organization completes an internal review of its contracting process.

As a side note, a South Side school construction project is not up and running yet because it had to follow the state’s bidding laws. UNO didn’t have to do that, and some African-American legislators aren’t too pleased.

* And speaking of Chicago school-related conflicts of interest

The day before Chicago Public Schools is set to release the list of schools in danger of closing, a group of parents asked the CPS Inspector General of Chicago Public Schools to investigate the district’s closing process.

Parents 4 Teachers, which has strong ties to the Chicago Teachers Union, filed a complaint alleging conflict of interest, saying the district is motivated to close schools not by a budget deficit but by a desire to expand charter schools.

The letter dated Feb. 12 cited ties between the independent commission appointed by CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett to research school closings, and the Civil Consulting Alliance, which has ties to charter-school boosters. It also pointed to a $478,000 grant to CPS from the charter-supporting Walton Family Foundation to pay for breakout sessions at school closing hearings.

“They share the same offices,” Erica Clark of Parents 4 Teachers said of the commission. “They are advised by organizations that are in business to promote charters.

“These are clear conflicts of interest that have to stop,” she said.

Clark and her group also allege that CPS has misled the public into believing that school closings will help bridge a deep budget gap.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


12 Comments
  1. - OldSmoky2 - Wednesday, Feb 13, 13 @ 9:16 am:

    The Sun-Times story is interesting. In fact, a quick search reveals that the Walton Family Foundation gave $2.8 million to aid charter schools in Chicago in 2012, including $500,000 to, yep, UNO. Given that their cozy relationship with CPS officials should raise eyebrows, and more.


  2. - walkinfool - Wednesday, Feb 13, 13 @ 9:38 am:

    I’m sure they were the best qualified and lowest bidders.

    Sure they were.


  3. - Fair Share - Wednesday, Feb 13, 13 @ 9:47 am:

    So who got the construction contracts for work on the Gates Foundation charters? And the other northshore liberal “hobby educators”? UNO is an easy target but I suspect the network of family and friends is not limited to them.


  4. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 13, 13 @ 9:57 am:

    There are good charter schools, there are bad charter schools.

    But what’s clear is that in Chicago, charter schools are another hustle, bankrolling hedgies and political organizations on the public dime.

    Mayor Emanuel, feel free to weigh in anytime now. Perhaps Rauner can spot you the cash for some TV time.


  5. - MrJM - Wednesday, Feb 13, 13 @ 10:10 am:

    What’s clear is that in Chicago, charter schools are another hustle, bankrolling hedgies and political organizations on the public dime.

    What he said.

    – MrJM


  6. - langhorne - Wednesday, Feb 13, 13 @ 11:45 am:

    “chicago aint ready for reform.”


  7. - ChicagoDem - Wednesday, Feb 13, 13 @ 12:11 pm:

    Regardless of what UNO does in terms of re-shuffling personnel, the US Attorney’s office and the FBI might begin to look at UNO more closely. And if the Feds smell blood they’ll dig deeper and deeper until they get “their man.”


  8. - Anonimo - Wednesday, Feb 13, 13 @ 12:48 pm:

    I’m REALLY FED up with the corruption in this city and this state, and I hope a new generation of (TRUE) reformers crops up soon. This city and this state stink! Milking the public coffers to build patronage armies and fortunes for the connected. There’s no doubt in my mind that Emanuel’s school closings are completely motivated by his desire to open up more charters and reap the political and monetary benefits that come from opening up these charters. And he says this is for the children? News flash - charters are outperformed by CPS throughout the city! I’ll support charter schools when they shut down New Trier High School and replace it with an UNO school.


  9. - Kwark - Wednesday, Feb 13, 13 @ 1:23 pm:

    Anyone out there know if you can borrow the UNO municipal bonds? That would allow you to short UNO.


  10. - Andrew - Wednesday, Feb 13, 13 @ 1:39 pm:

    Crain’s had a story on this a while back http://bit.ly/VV0fbk Looks like Madigan’s fingerprints all over this one. Must be good to be friends with the King.


  11. - downhereforyears - Wednesday, Feb 13, 13 @ 1:46 pm:

    And the Beat goes on.


  12. - steve schnorf - Wednesday, Feb 13, 13 @ 3:12 pm:

    200k is good work if you can get it-far better than I was ever able to find


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