Our first honoree is Chicago charter school magnate Juan Rangel who manages 13 Chicago charter schools as head of the United Neighborhood Organization or UNO. Yesterday, Juan was out a big rally for more funding for charter schools, which a lot of people immediately attacked because that money would be taken from the city's neighborhood schools. However, Rangel wasn't afraid to stand his ground even though with the $260,000 yearly salary he pays himself, he surely could have found more enjoyable ways to spend his time. He declared war on public education and called for parents to join him in Springfield as he lobbies to bring parent trigger laws to Illinois.
UNO schools are most known for their spectacular fireworks displays, but you can't deny they have some amazing education opportunities available to students. In fact their elementary schools rank between 407 and a whopping 99 out of 541 Chicago elementary schools on the state ISAT test. UNO is a big undertaking that needs a lot of funding. Their firework shows have seemed a little flat without the Blue Angels flying overhead and there are considerable administrative costs to removing low performing students in time for testing. If we wait for all 160 Chicago Public Schools to get libraries before we dive UNO their money, they may have to reach into the $150 million dollars or so that they've gotten from the state in grants over the last two years.
The secret to UNO's success seems to be Juan Rangel himself. He's a major adviser to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, but his real role is guiding the 13 UNO campuses. Their secret is to discourage moral crushing dissent by whining teachers. Without a union, Rangel is able to make the tough decisions like firing a gym teacher who whined about mock rape in the boys' locker room.
They may not have the most successful students and they may be demanding that Chicago allow more charter schools at a time it is closing schools for underenrollment, but for standing strong and demanding more money despite his large salary, Juan Rangel is a profile in courageousness.