The power struggle over the UNO Charter School Network intensified Thursday as the Chicago City Council’s Latino Caucus called for the resignation of Richard Rodriguez, a former Daley administration official who oversees the schools.
The Latino Caucus cited Wednesday’s threat from a top Chicago Public Schools official to revoke UCSN’s charter — its right to operate in the city.
In an audit ordered by interim chief executive Jesse Ruiz, CPS officials say they found that the UCSN schools aren’t providing adequate instruction for non-native speakers of English.
The Latino Caucus chairman, Ald. George Cardenas (12th), said seven of 10 aldermen in his group supported calling for Rodriguez’s resignation.
Earlier this week, Rodriguez stepped down as chairman of the UCSN board to immediately become interim chief executive overseeing its schools, which receive about $80 million a year from taxpayers to serve about 8,000 students in Chicago, most of them Hispanic.
Under Rodriguez, the charter schools have cut ties with the United Neighborhood Organization, which founded the charter network and ran the schools until last week, when its $8 million-a-year management deal expired.
The Latino aldermen said they want the charter schools to continue to have UNO manage the schools. The nonprofit community group’s budget relies heavily on management fees from the charter schools.
“Our focus should be on preserving the integrity of the oldest Latino neighborhood organization on the Southwest Side,” Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) said.
Rodriguez — who was Chicago Transit Authority president and aviation commissioner under former Mayor Richard M. Daley — couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.
Yeni Jimenez, the new head of the UCSN board, said, “It is inconceivable that public dollars meant for education could even be considered to be dedicated to an organization like UNO that has such a poor history of fiscal responsibility and mismanagement.”
Longtime UNO chief executive officer Juan Rangel left in December 2013, ousted in the wake of Chicago Sun-Times reports that revealed UNO paid millions of dollars from a $98 million state grant to companies owned by brothers of Rangel’s top deputy.
Jimenez also said CPS is treating the charter network in a “blatantly political and inequitable manner,” and she questioned the motives of the aldermen who called for Rodriguez’s resignation.
“UNO has resorted to seeking help from politicians who themselves have a vested self-interest in UNO’s financial success,” she said.
Two Latino Caucus members have ties to UNO employees. The organization employs Cardenas’ ex-wife and Grace Perales, sister of Ald. Danny Solis (25th).
The aldermen noted that Rodriguez is the lone holdover from the UNO board to survive a contracting scandal at the organization.