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$20 Million Chicago Schools Contract Raises Questions

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Quietly and without public fanfare, the Chicago Board of Education recently awarded a contract to a small for-profit company that CPS officials say is the best bet to provide high-quality training for principals and mid-level administrators.

Contracts like this for training and consulting are common at Chicago Public Schools and don't normally raise too many eyebrows. But this one has, and our story at Catalyst Chicago explains why: It's for a hefty $20 million. It was awarded without competitive bidding. Current CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett formerly worked for the organization, Supes Academy. The men who run Supes have, shall we say, a somewhat questionable track record. And all this in a city where major, well-respected universities already train principals, where 49 schools have shut down and others are losing teachers, classroom aides, clerks, lunch ladies and other workers and programs right and left, to the tune of $68 million in cuts -- or $82 million, depending on whose math you believe.

Training and coaching for principals and administrators isn't a bad idea. Trying to fix failing schools is hard work. But a contract, a no-bid one at that, for such a large sum of public money should undergo intense scrutiny.

CPS says that happened in this case and that the contract went through an intensive review process. But the head of the Better Government Association says the questions raised by Sarah Karp in our story point to the need for the CPS Inspector General to look into the matter.

Check out our story. Judge for yourself. After all, it's your money at stake.