UNO chieftain out... Problem with charter corruptions grows

The December 5, 2013 announcement that UNO chieftain Juan Rangel was resigning came as a shock to no one who has been following the rather sordid tale of nepotism, cronyism, union busting and corruption at the UNO charter schools. But to fester on the personality of Rangel -- obnoxious though he may have been -- is to miss the bigger picture that's been unfolding for years, and which is actually growing worse as Rangel's departure clogs the public scene briefly.

The massive expansion of unregulated, anti-union charter schools in Chicago has been the work of two Democratic mayors (Richard M. Daley and since May 2011 Rahm Emanuel) and dozens of school board members. Underwritten by millionaires and billionaires, Chicago's charter schools -- and "campuses" -- are an example of an ideology come to life. Deregulation and privatization, the twin fantasies of the current ruling class both in Chicago and nationally, have gone from being an obscene local attack on public schools and unions in Chicago (and Illinois) to being national policy, as the Chicago Plan and Barack Obama's Chicago Boys (led by Arne Duncan) took over national education policy beginning in January 2009.

From that point of view, Juan Rangel, no matter how vivid the memories of corruption he leaves, is a bit player in a huge drama, not even worth the time of the porter at the gate in this version of "MacBeth."

The Chicago Teachers Union posted the following on its website on December 6, 2013:

CTU statement on the resignation of UNO CEO Juan Rangel and the future of charter school operators in Illinois

The Chicago Teachers Union welcomes the news of UNO CEO Juan Rangels resignation. We, along with many Chicago parent and community organizations, have long expressed concerns that this clout-heavy charter school business used its close ties to Mayor Rahm Emanuel to expand rapidly at the expense of classroom investments for students, teachers and staff.

The ongoing UNO scandal continues to raise serious questions about the mayors expansion of charter schools, which are an underlying cause of mass neighborhood school closings in 2013the largest at one time in U.S. historyand massive school budget cuts. The scandal also raises questions about Illinois state leadership.

Although Governor Pat Quinn temporarily froze state funding to UNO after abuses were uncovered, the tap was swiftly turned back on with tax dollars continuing to finance UNO expansion. State officials made few attempts to force much-needed transparency on charter operators and the Illinois State Charter School Commission the government created. Additionally, the governors choice of Paul Vallas as a running mate raises concerns. Vallas is an avowed proponent of school privatization and charter school growth.

Increasing numbers of UNO parents and staff have spoken out about the differing and opposing interests of UNO students versus UNO management, which led teachers and staff to form a union last spring. Presently, UNO teachers and staff work incredibly long hours with inadequate pay and very few opportunities to plan and reflect upon instruction. We hope that the remaining UNO management chooses a new direction and urge a swift and fair settlement of the negotiations currently underway.

While we are hopeful that the Rangels resignation ends UNO abuses, we remain concerned about the lack of oversight and accountability for charter operators statewide. The charter school industry spends increasing amounts of limited public dollars but lacks public oversight. The fact that the scandal went this far and action took this long underscores the need for new state laws to deal with the types of mismanagement Rangel and UNO represent for our schools.

We believe that a real voice for organized teachers, staff and parents is an essential counter-balance to the voices of politically clouted, corporate-style charter managers.


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