The public corruption that has long plagued Illinois has also seeped into the state’s biggest school district, which happens to be the nation’s third largest with more than 400,000 students.
According to an annual report published by the Chicago Public Schools Office of Inspector General, a record 1,012 cases of fraud and waste were investigated last fiscal year, including a district manager who spent nearly $70,000 to buy 30 cappuccino machines for a work-school program. Most of the machines haven’t even been opened and a few disappeared.
The Inspector General’s 31-page report includes charts and graphs that help illustrate the crisis in one of the country’s biggest public school districts. It reveals that the competitive bidding process—mandatory in all public sectors—was repeatedly ignored, high school staffers changed grades to help student athletes and employees at a restricted-enrollment school falsified addresses to get relatives admitted.
As a result of the falsification, the district spent more than $250,000 a year to bus dozens of children, who lived within the overcrowded school’s boundaries, to other campuses. In all, the Inspector General said 940 investigations were completed, many resulting in termination recommendations and some referred for criminal prosecution.
It’s no surprise that the widespread corruption of Chicago’s political machine has spilled into its public school district. After all, the system is run by a notoriously crooked mayor (Richard Daly) who has been federally investigated for fraud, violating a court order banning politics as a basis for hiring city workers and taking bribes for city business contracts.
Dozens of administration officials have been convicted throughout Daley’s six terms as mayor and many are currently in prison. Most were busted for their involvement in a fraud-infested project—created by the mayor—that hired private trucks to do city work. More than 800 truckloads of asphalt intended for public projects mysteriously disappeared.