Gov. Pat Quinn’s administration on Friday announced it partially restored funding to the United Neighborhood Organization to allow the embattled charter school operator to finish a new soccer academy high school in time to open this fall.
The decision came less than two months after the administration put a hold on payments to UNO, contending the politically connected organization violated terms of a $98 million grant by hiring contractors who are related to one of the group's top executives.
The changes were enough to satisfy the Democratic governor, who stands for re-election next year and could face a tough primary in which Latino voters will be an important bloc. On Friday, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity said $6.2 million in payments will be made so the new high school can be built.
“We are releasing a portion of the funding today so that the children can get to school on time. UNO has taken several steps to change the way it operates and we will be closely monitoring all future behavior to ensure UNO is living up to the reforms announced,” agency spokeswoman Sandra M. Jones said in a statement.
The state agency said Friday that UNO will now have received $60 million of the $98 million construction grant.
Another $23 million remains for the high school and $15 million has yet to be earmarked for a specific project.
Martin Cabrera, brought in to be UNO’s new board chairman, released a statement thanking Quinn and noting that a different company will take over construction of the school.