The UNO charter schools are well connected. Juan Rangel, the head of the Chicago charter corporation, was a co-chair of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s campaign. He is a major figure in The city’s Hispanic community.The legislature gave UNO $98 million to build three charter schools.
Unfortunately, charter schools are so deregulated that problems arise, like lack of accountability, lack of transparency, and nepotism.
The second-in-command at UNO, Miguel d’Escoto, had to resign when the news came out that he awarded contracts worth millions to his relatives.
Here is the key revelation: l
“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.
“Fred d’Escoto was the secretary of UNO’s board until stepping down at some point in 2010, according to public records. His company received its first payment of state grant money in August 2010 for work on the construction of the Soccer Academy Elementary School on South Homan Avenue.
“D’Escoto Inc. has been paid more than $1.5 million so far for working as “owner’s representative” on that project and on two other UNO schools: in the Galewood neighborhood, on the Northwest Side, and at the Soccer Academy High School that’s under construction.
“Rodrigo d’Escoto’s company was paid about $6.7 million for work on the Soccer Academy Elementary and Galewood schools, and the firm has a contract for about $3.1 million to help build the new high school.
“Rangel has said UNO hired d’Escoto Inc. without seeking other bids but solicited multiple offers for the deals awarded to Reflection. UNO did not use the sealed-bid process that’s required to select contractors for new Chicago Public Schools facilities and other public construction projects.”
But that was not all. In addition to the contracts awarded to the family of d’Escoto, UNO also awarded contracts to the sister of the organization’s lobbyist and to brothers of State Rep. Edward Acevedo, who voted to award the $98 million grant in 2009.
Is this business as usual in Chicago? As the article notes, the public schools are required to ask for competitive, sealed bids. Conflicts of interest are prohibited.
It is certainly not a wise expenditure of taxpayers’ dollars at a time when Chicago is slashing the schools’ budgets, when schools lack guidance counselors, librarians, psychologists, and teachers of the arts.