|Former Exelon CEO John Rowe at his Rowe-Clark Math & Science Academy.|
It was 2006 and Mr. Manderschied was president of the Noble Network of Charter Schools. He met with Mr. Rauner, then chairman of Chicago private-equity firm GTCR LLC, in a living room-like suite at the firm's Sears Tower office. But he was nervous because he had never asked anyone for such a large sum. After an hour's discussion, Mr. Rauner agreed to the $1 million donation that would make his name the first one emblazoned on a Noble school. -- Crain'sWhile parents and Bronzeville community activists had to go on an 18-day hunger strike to win an open enrollment high school at Dyett, all charter hustler Mike Milkie had to do was walk into billionaire Bruce Rauner's office with his well-connected pal Manderschied and ask him for a million bucks to open another in his chain of privately-run charter schools. Then it's over to CPS to win easy approval for another charter school to compete with underfunded neighborhood schools for area students.
Already the state's biggest charter network, Noble expects to teach 15% of Chicago public high school students by 2017.
How they call them public schools, I will never know.
The Noble Network of Charter Schools founded by Milkie, a former Chicago high school teacher, looks more like an ego-boosting tax haven for local billionaires than it does public, neighborhood charter schools. For a meager $1M "investment", billionaires like Gov. Bruce Rauner, Sec. of Commerce Penny Pritzker, Allan Muchin (founding partner of Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP), former Exelon CEO John Rowe and former ComEd CEO and CPS school board president Frank Clark, had schools named after themselves.
According to Crain's:
Mr. Rauner, a Republican from Winnetka, has backed a number of charter schools, including the UNO Charter School Network now dogged by questions of cronyism. But he has given the most to Noble, just over $3.5 million.It was a nice boost for Rauner, who while locked in a tight race for governor,had hundreds of students moving around the city, wearing required school uniforms with polo shirts, jackets, sweats, and sports team jerseys bearing his name.
Now CEO of the Noble Network, Milkie says he understands how to talk to business executives.
“Their dollars are a great investment in terms of return,” he says, citing low administrative costs and the “tremendous impact on students' lives.” He provides dashboards of data to document progress on everything from student testing to detentions to teacher bonuses.
“Businesspeople like to measure things,” says retired Exelon Corp. Chairman and CEO John Rowe, who estimates he's given $4.5 million to Noble and for college scholarships to its graduates since 2007.In its latest capital campaign, Noble has raised more than half the $50 million it's targeting for expansion. That includes $15 million last year from Glenview-based Illinois Tool Works Inc.'s foundation for the ITW David Speer Academy for a school built across the street from Prosser High School. ITW has already been contacting Prosser freshman and their families to recruit them away from Prosser.
But lately, Milke and his wealthy patrons have run into trouble when they tried to expand into more upscale north-side white communities. Parents rose up in opposition and local pols responded by putting the kibosh on Noble's expansion plans.
Big money talks, but doesn't always win.