Juan Rangel, President / Chief Executive Officer of the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) talks with the Chicago Sun-Times. Wednesday, March 28, 2012. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times
Updated: May 29, 2013 7:34AM
Juan Rangel, chief executive officer of the state’s largest charter school operator, is absolutely correct when he points out that hundreds of children will be affected if his latest charter school doesn’t open as scheduled in September because of funding violations.
But Rangel’s outfit, the United Neighborhood Organization, is entirely to blame if the school does not open on time, and it is UNO’s job to get things straightened out.
Much of UNO’s funding, including for the new $25 million Soccer Academy Charter High School at 5050 S. Homan Ave., comes from a $98 million state grant. Three grant agreements require UNO to notify the state of any “actual or potential” financial conflicts of interest.
But a state letter obtained by Sun-Times reporter Dan Mihalopoulos shows Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration has suspended UNO funding because of unreported insider deals. That can’t have been an easy decision for Quinn, who together with House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) helped UNO get the grant in the first place.
The state had little choice. Millions of taxpayer dollars were funneled through UNO to companies owned by two brothers of Miguel d’Escoto, a high-ranking UNO executive. D’Escoto resigned Feb. 12 from his $200,000-a-year post as UNO’s No. 2 executive following reports about the deals in the Sun-Times. State officials said UNO should have notified them it was using the companies owned by the d’Escoto family members.
The Sun-Times has also reported that d’Escoto was on the board of one of the insider companies that got contracts while he also working for UNO, and that the owner of that company is a former UNO board secretary — and d’Escoto’s brother.
The Quinn administration wants UNO, which also gets tens of millions of dollars a year from the Chicago Public Schools, to have an independent audit done, at its own expense, to show how the state money has been handled. UNO should comply.
To his credit, Rangel says UNO is working “to address the relevant issues.”
It should do so quickly. Maybe it can still get its school open on time.