Alderman George Cardenas (12th Ward) continues push for privatization, union busting... Near secret push for McKinley Park site for charter school!

In one of the most brazen attempts to usurp even the authority of the powerful Rahm Emmanuel, Mayor of Chicago, Alderman George Cardenas of the 12th Ward is trying to push through the Chicago Zoning committee a charter school expansion into the McKinley park neighbor on Chicago’s Southside. Despite the charter school operator being rejected by the Chicago Board of Education to open two charter schools, Alderman Cardenas seems to think it is a good idea.

An aerial view ("A") shows the site of the proposed Concept charter school that Alderman George Cardenas is trying to sneak into the 12th Ward behind the backs of ward residents. The baseball diamond to the north of Pershing Road is McKinley Park, which makes the proposed charter school site (currently zoned industrial) even more desirable. Photo provided by John Kugler."Concept Schools NFP", a charter school operator, is trying to have the zoning at 2245 W. Pershing changed so a former industrial building, now a vacant warehouse, can become the "Horizon Science Charter School Academy" for the start of the new 2013 -2014 school year. "Concept Schools", the charter operator, is a known union busting organization which has been in a long heated and expensive three-year battle over the right of its teachers to become unionized. Despite the Illinois Education Labor Review Board’s Order for the charter operator to negotiate with its teachers, the charter operator never followed the law choosing instead to go to court and waste student resources to pay lawyers.

In one of its most egregious acts, Concept Schools charter operator fired teacher Rhonda Hartwell in August 2010. Hartwell was eight months pregnant at the time of her firing and was forced to move up her scheduled delivery to ensure it occurred before her health insurance was cut off.

Quoted in the April 26, 2013 by the Chicago Sun-Times:

“Ald. George Cardenas (12th), whose ward includes the proposed McKinley Park charter, was hesitant to talk about the controversy for fear of alienating Emanuel. “I don’t want to have conflict. It doesn’t help anybody,” he said. “I support the school and I’m going to find out what’s going on. I will work with the administration to assuage any concerns they would have.” Cardenas said he supports the Concept charter because schools in his Southwest Ward are overcrowded and parents need to have choices for their children. Parental choice has long been Emanuel’s education mantra.”

Alderman George Cardenas (12th Ward) didn't begin his career of supporting union busting and privatization in the company of others of like mind in 2013 with the secret attempt to move a charter school into the McKinley Park community in 2013. Above, on September 12, 2006, Cardenas (second from left) was prominent at a major even in support of a Chicago Wal-Mart store on the South Side featuring Mayor Richard M. Daley and others. Among those at the event were several individuals who pushed public school privatization and who have subsequently either been indicted, gone to prison, or are under investigation for corruption. Above (left to right) are Juan Rangal (before UNO expanded with the support of Cardenas and others and allegedly misspent a $98 million Illinois grant), Cook County Board member William Beavers (before he was indicted), Alderman Arenda Troutman (before she was sent to prison for corruption as an alderman), and (far right) Alderman Emma Mitts, who has long been an opponent of the Chicago Teachers Union. The "TWO" sign came with Rev. Leon Finney of The Woodlawn Organization (TWO) who at the time of the above photograph was standing with Mayor Daley berating as "racists" those who opposed Wal Mart. Protesters opposed to Wal Mart at the time were kept from the event by a team of Gangster Disciples and Chicago police. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.I am living now in the McKinley Park neighborhood for 15 years and I have not received any notice of this underhanded move, even though I live less than three blocks from the proposed charter school. Nor have any of my children, who go to Evergreen Academy, the local public school in the area, received any notice of this Charter school expansion.

Not until I got home to my computer over the weekend, did I confirm my suspicions with satellite photos that this is a scam to steal tax payer dollars.

No people live in this area except in a condo development next door that is almost bankrupt. The site of the new charter site is next to the McKinley Park lofts condo development. Then there is to the 8-lane Western Avenue to cross to the east. The one-mile square McKinley Park and lagoon are to the north. Industrial WW2 ammunition factories to west and the old site of the CPS headquarters at 1819 W. Pershing Road. The famous Union Stockyards train yards to the south of the site. The only people that live near this site are from the condo development.

In researching the condo project with a few easy clicks of the mouse. It seems the development is losing money. On the website YoChicago < > there is a posting headline by Joe Zekas on 3/5/12 "Sellers still feeling the pain at McKinley Park Lofts." The article describes the troubles the condo development is in. Where multiple units cannot be sold and some even being taken off the market or delisted. Futher proof of trouble is that “Two of the three units that closed there last year sold for 77% and 46% below their 2007 sale prices.”

Then on the website Curbed Chicago < > as most recently as Tuesday, April 12, 2011, the headline by Mark Boyer reads "McKinley Park Loft Feeling the PriceChopper Pain Again." The posting describes the drop for a condo unit that sold for $243,000 in 2006 to asking price down to $79,900. “This is the fourth time the price has been reduced in four months,” stated on the posting.

In trying to understand what was going on in the alderman’s head top get involved with such a shady deal, I went to his Facebook page and start positing inquiring comments to elicit a response. Instead I was removed for his Facebook page and all my posted were blocked.

I then asked: "Why did you remove me from your Facebook page? is it because we found out about your crony charter school deal going through zoning Tuesday?"

Above, the first page of the letter written by Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) leaders Dan Montgomery and Karen Lewis to then CPS "Chief Executive Officer" Jean-Claude Brizard regarding the manipulation of real estate by Chicago Math Science Academy, located on the city's northeast side. Ald. George Cardenas (12th), whose ward includes the proposed McKinley Park charter, was hesitant to talk about the controversy for fear of alienating Emanuel. “I don’t want to have conflict. It doesn’t help anybody,” he said. “I support the school and I’m going to find out what’s going on. I will work with the administration to assuage any concerns they would have.” (Saturday at 7:00pm)

The response was:

“Alderman George A. Cardenas Fan Page I work for the alderman and monitor his fan page. Feel free to come and personally see him on Mondays which is ward night. after 3 or make an appointment. The alderman has an open door policy so it's not necessary to make an appointment However if you decide to do it can be accommodated. Thank you for visiting the fan page. (Saturday at 7:49pm via mobile)”

No answer to my question or being removed nor the issue at hand, the back hand deal to expand a charter school into McKinley Park .

It seems this is not the first shady real estate deal that Concept schools charter operator has been involved in. Back in July 28, 2011 the Illinois Federation of Teachers sent a letter to then CPS CEO JC Brizard warning of a possible illegal real estate transaction by Concept Schools. In the letter the Union explains how the chapter operator was transferring public property without notification or consultation with the community or stakeholders, as it is now doing, to a private for-profit company to increase the mortgage payments from $240,000 in its 2010 mortgage payment to nearly $1.1 million in rent payments in just 2011.

What is different now is that we have 12th Ward Chicago Alderman Cardenas directly involved in supporting this deal that makes an end run around the Board or Education, Mayor Emanuel and the constituents of McKinley Park and City of Chicago.

To Contact Alderman Cardenas 12th Ward to Stop Charter Expansion into McKinley Park here are his contact numbers and email:

Ward Office Phone: 773.523.8250

Ward Office Fax: 773.523.8440

City Hall Phone: 312.744.3040

City Hall Fax: 312.744.4482

The zoning meeting notice to expand charter schools into McKinley Park: CHARTER SCHOOL EXPANSION APRIL 30, 2013, TUESDAY 10AM - Council Chambers -- CHICAGO City Hall

Addendum to the Regular Agenda Committee on Zoning, Landmarks & Building Standards

NO. 17692 (12th WARD) ORDINANCE REFERRED (3/13/13)

DOCUMENT # 02013-1588

Common Address: 2245 West Pershing Road

Applicant: Concept Schools NFP

The proposed zoning amendment will allow a charter school with: 18 classrooms, 4 science/computer laboratory rooms, a library, a cafeteria (with kitchen), 10 restrooms and 8 offices, to be located and established at the property. There will be 26 on-site (off-street) vehicle parking spaces (10 of those spaces will be designated for student drop-off and pick-up), as well as a rack for 4 bicycles, provided along the east side of the building. There will also be a two-way drive isle with a 24' (diameter) turnaround area located along the east side of the building. No construction is proposed or intended for the exterior of the building. All proposed construction will occur inside the existing building. There are no dwelling units proposed for the property.


April 29, 2013 at 10:57 PM

By: Jim Vail

Good article on Cardenas

Good article John!

April 30, 2013 at 6:54 PM

By: John Whitfield

McKinley Park is a union neighborhood

If they shove this down our throats in McKinley Park, you can be assured that the staff will become union members. This is the other side of the coin that we need to relentless work on, that is, up the aunty on existing charter schools, and get the staffs into a union. If you know a charter school teacher, get them connected to the union, and lets support their valiant efforts to unionize their schools until the moratorium is enacted, and the state law is changed. There are other teachers in McKinley park, lets back John and this fight. It takes a village to raise our children in McKinley Parks public schools.

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