Posts Tagged ‘Juan Rangel’

Major Chicago Magazine/BGA story on UNO

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

RangelplanecropUNO gets more heat, this time in the form of a long article in Chicago Magazine co-written by the Better Government Association.

Sorry they didn’t mention PURE’s state complaint against UNO, but they did share this quote from me about the $98 million state construction grant: “What on earth was the state thinking?” says Julie Woestehoff, the executive director of Parents United for a Responsible Education, a Chicago advocacy organization. “We have this huge budget crisis. To be giving UNO $98 million—it’s preposterous. It throws into enormous relief the political nature of this organization, the clout they have.”

Also, no photo of Juan’s plane.





UNO charter scandals Part 3: Rangel family using UNO schools as personal party venue

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Does the Rangel family pay rent to these charter schools or are they just personal family banquet halls?
























Here’s Part 1. Here’s Part 2.

UNO charter school scandals- Part 2

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

 Part 1 here (press release re: PURE letter to Executive Inspector General asking for wider UNO probe in light of these photos).



More UNO scandals for Illinois Executive Inspector General – Part 1

Monday, April 29th, 2013
UNO CEO Juan Rangel posing in front of "our private plane," from Rangel Facebook page

UNO CEO Juan Rangel posing in front of “our private plane,” from Rangel Facebook page

It was very gratifying to hear that the state of Illinois is suspending payment of the balance of a $98 million grant to the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) and its charter school network, to be resumed only if/until UNO complies with certain demands by the state agency.

Today I sent a set of Facebook downloads from the Facebook pages of UNO CEO Juan Rangel and friends to Ricardo Meza, the state Executive Inspector General, with copies to the state Auditor General.

PRESS RELEASE *** For Immediate Release

April 29, 2013

Contact: Julie Woestehoff, 773-538-1135

Chicago parent group asks state inspector general

to widen probe of UNO, CEO Rangel

Chicago, IL – Today, Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE) asked the state Executive Inspector General (EIG) to broaden its investigation into the use of state funds by the United Neighborhood Organization and UNO Charter Network.

The initial complaint against UNO was filed by PURE and members of the Pilsen Academy local school council and parent community on January 17, 2013. That complaint called on the EIG to investigate how this politically-connected organization has been able to amass $98 million in legislative earmarks and nearly $70 million in tax-exempt bonds without proper oversight, in what seems like a complicated financial shell game.

The EIG initiated an investigation of the groups’ complaint on January 18 (letter). While some in the media concluded that the state investigation was due to their news reports, these stories were published well after the EIG launched its investigation into the PURE/Pilsen community complaint.

We were pleased when, days after our complaint was filed, an additional $35 million slated for UNO was taken off the table. More recently, the state funding agency overseeing the $98 million UNO grant has suspended payment of those funds until UNO complies with contractual rules.

Today’s letter from PURE to the EIG includes a set of downloads from the Facebook pages of UNO CEO Juan Rangel and friends, received from an anonymous source, which raise further questions about whether UNO is properly using these state funds.

For example:

  • UNO CEO Juan Rangel is shown posing with a corporate jet identified as “our private jet.” Was this jet purchased with funds designated by the state for educational programs?
  • Several photos show Rangel and family members using at least one UNO charter school for personal family events. Did the family pay rent, or are the schools being used as a personal party venue?
  • Several photos show Rangel and UNO staff (some in Mickey Mouse ears) posing at Disneyland, purportedly for staff training. Is this an appropriate use of educational funds?

These photos also raise questions about whether UNO is using state funds to endorse and campaign for political candidates in violation of state funding requirements and IRS non-profit rules.

  • One photo caption on Rangel’s Facebook page promotes candidate Silvana Tabares, and adds, “If you haven’t received an election day assignment, send me a message and I’ll connect you to the campaign.”
  • Another photo shows a button, “Blago must go” with the UNO logo.

PURE has also filed a copy of today’s complaint with the Illinois Auditor General.

Sun-Times claims credit for PURE’s state complaint against UNO charter network

Saturday, March 30th, 2013



Well, I’ll have to admit that it’s flattering for a major metropolitan newspaper to take credit for our work.

But the actual reason the state is investigating UNO’s $98 million charter school construction grant is not the Sun-Times’s reporting, as their front page story suggested Saturday, but the complaint PURE and LSC members from Pilsen Elementary filed with the state Office of the Executive Inspector General on January 17.

In fact, the Sun-Times failed to report that story despite having gotten our press release.

Catalyst, the only media outlet that showed up to our 1/17 press conference at the EIG’s office, never ran a story, either, and on Monday, they reiterated the Sun-Times claim that the investigation came “in the wake of” the newspaper report.

The initial lack of coverage reflects how out on a limb we were at the time.

It wasn’t until a week later, on January 23, that the Tribune referenced our complaint in another story about UNO, and Crain’s piled on, too (link to Crain’s story doesn’t seem to be working today).

This is not to diminish the great work the Sun-Times Watch Dogs have been doing to expose UNO’s shady dealings with millions of taxpayer dollars. Because we were informed that the EIG “will be unable to provide you with the status or outcome of any investigation we may undertake,” (see letter below), we are especially pleased that the Sun-Times was able to uncover the important news that an investigation of UNO by the EIG is indeed underway.

Still, the S-T didn’t start printing anything about UNO’s questionable use $98 million in state funds until well after we had asked for an investigation. 

I e-mailed S-T reporter Dan Mihalopolous (you try it!) about this but have not gotten a response.

Here’s the January 18, 2013, letter from EIG Ricardo Meza, acknowledging our complaint:


PSAT for 12-20-11, Part 1: Support a progressive alderman

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Last week the Chicago Tribune accused progressive alderman Nicholas Sposato of “putting kids on hold” for choosing to gather community input before approving permits for a new UNO charter school in his ward.

You may remember that, in the last election, firefighter Sposato beat John Rice, the machine-backed candidate and chauffeur for the previous alderman.

City Council has a long-standing tradition called “aldermanic prerogative,” which gives sole discretion over building permits to the local alderman. Apparently UNO’s founder, Alderman Danny Solis, and current UNO CEO Juan Rangel,  Rahm Emanuel’s campaign finance chairman, are trying to replace Sposato’s choice with UNO’s clout.

Pressure from UNO and city power brokers have led City Council to call for a special Council meeting Thursday to take their own vote on the school, overriding Sposato.

Sposato sent around an e-mail explaining his position:

Last April I was elected on the promise of creating a new system of open and accessible government for the residents of the 36th ward and I have worked every day to achieve that goal to ensure that the residents are informed and are able to voice their opinions. This proposed school is no different.

Sposato rightly wants to be sure that an UNO school is the best fit for his community, especially since some of UNO’s charter schools are already in trouble academically and have been accused of skimming off the better-achieving students from the neighborhood.

You may also remember the words of the Blagojevich trial judge, that we get the government we deserve. Folks, if we don’t support a good-government alderman, we’re going to continue to have bad government.

So, for Public Schools Action Tuesday, part 1, please call or e-mail your alderman and ask him/her to support Alderman Sposato’s right to make a careful and community-centered decision about building a new charter school.

Here’s what I just sent to my Alderman, Will Burns, with a copy to Ald. Sposato <>:

Hi Will – Please show your support for Alderman Sposato as he stands up for the right of his community to have their voices heard in his decision about the permit for a new UNO charter school in the 36th ward. Many community people are concerned that UNO already runs at least one low-performing school, and that another UNO charter school may not be the best fit for the community. We would want you to be able to make this decision for our community based on factors that are known best to our community. It should not be something that others decide for us.


Julie Woestehoff


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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.