After leaving city government four years ago, Ron Huberman started his own firm, which is getting business from some of the same government-financed charter-school operators he championed as then-Mayor Richard M. Daley’s schools chief, a Chicago Sun-Times investigation has found.
Huberman, who is a member of Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner’s transition team, founded TeacherMatch LLC in 2011.
The company has since gotten contracts worth a total of more than $200,000 from two of the largest Chicago Public Schools-funded charter operators — the Noble Network of Charter Schools and the United Neighborhood Organization’s charter network — and also has gotten work from some schools in the Chicago International Charter Schools network, records and interviews show.
TeacherMatch, which provides software to help schools screen job applicants, reported total revenues in 2013 of more than $286,000, according to school contracting records.
That same year, it got an infusion of nearly $1.9 million from investors, the records show — a sign of confidence in its future growth.
Huberman continues to serve as the company’s executive chairman, though records list its primary owner as Prairie Capital, the Chicago private-equity firm where Huberman has been a top executive since 2011.
Of nearly 500 current openings listed on TeacherMatch‘s website, more than half are for jobs at charter schools in Chicago.
The Noble openings advertised on the TeacherMatch site include jobs at Johnson College Prep — a new school in Englewood that the Chicago Board of Education approved and began funding at Huberman’s urging.
Huberman served as chief executive officer of Chicago’s schools under Daley for less than two years. During that time, he signed several measures that aided Noble and other private charter operators. Those included granting Noble permission to enroll more students at three campuses and approving a new Noble school on the South Side.
In November 2013, Noble signed a four-year, no-bid deal with TeacherMatch worth at least $107,000, records show.
Though the privately operated charter schools rely heavily on government funding through CPS, the city school system’s ethics code does not prohibit former officials from doing business with charter operators they had dealings with while working for the district.
Huberman, who would not comment on his business dealings, has been part of the transition team for Rauner, a strong advocate of charter schools who’s being sworn in Monday in Springfield as governor. The transition-team biographies released by Rauner did not mention Huberman’s role with TeacherMatch.
After stints as mayoral chief of staff and Chicago Transit Authority president, Huberman was appointed by Daley to lead the city school system in January 2009. Daley was a big supporter of charters, which gained a foothold and grew rapidly in Chicago during the former mayor’s tenure and which also have found support under Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Charters “help provide options for families, and options lead to competition, which is healthy for a school system,” Huberman said in a 2009 interview with the University of Chicago graduate business school’s alumni magazine.
In 2013, Huberman lobbied UNO’s then-CEO Juan Rangel and other officials, who say they had reached a “preliminary agreement” with TeacherMatch. But Rangel quit in December 2013 amid a scandal prompted by Sun-Times reports on millions of dollars in government-funded deals given by UNO to two brothers of Rangel’s top aide.
After Rangel’s resignation, UNO’s charter school network sought proposals for “instructional staff-applicant screening” services and chose TeacherMatch over one other bidder, a St. Louis company.
Like Noble, UNO had benefitted from Huberman’s support while at CPS. In November 2009, Huberman signed an agreement allowing UNO to open a new, 600-student elementary school. He also allowed the charter operator to lease a CPS building for a year for $1.
Asked how its charter network ended up doing business with TeacherMatch, an UNO official said, “It is not known who initiated those conversations.”
Noble officials and Rangel declined to comment.
TeacherMatch also has gotten business from Intrinsic Schools, which operates a charter campus on the Northwest Side. The school paid TeacherMatch $918 in 2013 and $2,295 in September.
“TeacherMatch provides a unique service through its Educators Professional Inventory,” Intrinsic Schools spokesman Solomon Lieberman says. “This assessment tool provides us with key insights into each teacher candidate.”
TeacherMatch also has done work for CICS schools including those managed by Civitas Education Partners and Distinctive Schools.
Civitas representatives did not return calls seeking comment.
Distinctive paid $26,000 to TeacherMatch in the past two years for work at three CICS campuses, according to David Sundstrom, Distinctive’s chief legal and compliance officer.
Sundstrom and Joseph Wise, Distinctive’s chairman, also are involved with Huberman in another Chicago company — TransitPro Logistics. In a news release in 2012, TransitPro Logistics said the company was “borne out of Atlantic Research Partners,” a Florida consulting firm Wise and Sundstrom started.
CPS has paid Atlantic Research Partners $1.35 million since approving a consulting agreement with the company in June 2010, records show.
Sundstrom says Atlantic Research Partners was selected for the CPS work not by Huberman but by CPS administrators at the chief area officer level.
“We have never provided services to any superintendent . . . or any superintendent’s central office team,” Sundstrom says.
Huberman recommended the school board approve the contract with Atlantic Research Partners, though, and he signed the deal, records show.