Oct 26, 2015
Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, pled guilty to fraud on October 13th. She had arranged a kick-back of more than two million dollars, in exchange for steering a contract for training school principals to her former boss, Gary Solomon and his SUPES Academy.
This was not the first time Byrd-Bennett has used her position as an “educator” to funnel money to her friends. Between heading schools in Cleveland and Detroit, she worked for textbook publisher Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt. Then, as soon as she was hired to run Detroit schools, she gave the publisher a 40 million-dollar contract! She also gave multi-million dollar contracts to the same Gary Solomon she helped out in Chicago. And she even gave her son-in-law a $71,000 contract for producing a “report” that never came out. In fact, when Byrd-Bennett was tapped for the job in Chicago, the Detroit newspaper commented that she was getting out just in time to stay ahead of an investigation. One member of the Detroit school board claimed that “the community was coming after her on that $40 million contract.”
So why did the Democratic mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, hire this obviously corrupt person to head the Chicago Public Schools? For one thing, Emanuel is also tied to Gary Solomon – Solomon steered Byrd-Bennett’s predecessor Emanuel’s way, and he was the one who suggested Emanuel hire her.
And for what it’s worth, Emanuel became a very rich man by brokering a few investment banking deals for his well-placed friends and contacts – including the Republican governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner. The one real difference is that Emanuel winning contracts through his friends was “legal.” No wonder he didn’t see anything wrong with Solomon or Byrd-Bennett.
Emanuel and Byrd-Bennett have both made it clear they want to use the schools to funnel money to the rich at the expense of working-class students. That’s the real corruption, whether it’s illegal or not.