The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that a bitter split between the United Neighborhood Organization and the charter school chain it founded could force thousands of children to find a new school this fall.

UNO CEO Rick Cerda told the Chicago Board of Education that the UNO charter school network owes his organization nearly $3 million in management fees, a debt that may force it to sell four school buildings, according to the Sun-Times.

The Sun-Times story says the charter schools stopped paying UNO because the parent organization hasn’t shown what it’s doing with the money.

The apparent lack of financial oversight was at the center of a BGA/Chicago magazine story, published January 2014, about the rise and fall of UNO and its former leader Juan Rangel.

The BGA and Chicago magazine took an in-depth look at UNO’s finances and found it received millions of taxpayer dollars. However, a good chunk of that money never touched the classroom – UNO’s roughly 8,000 students, mostly Latino children on the Southwest and Northwest sides.

Among the BGA/Chicago findings:

  • UNO has received more than $280 million in public money over the past five years but neither Chicago Public Schools nor the Illinois State Board of Education closely monitored how those funds were spent.
  • In 2012, UNO received $49 million from local, state and federal sources. Of that amount, more than $5 million went to management fees, nearly $3.5 million to debt interest payments and nearly $1 million to consultants.

To read more click here.

This blog post was written by the Better Government Association’s Andrew Schroedter, who can be reached at or (312) 821-9035.