CHICAGO -- A federal judge has sentenced the former head of Chicago Public Schools to more than four years in prison for steering $23 million in city contracts to education firms in exchange for more than $2 million in bribes and kickbacks.
A tearful Barbara Byrd-Bennett apologized in court before she was sentenced Friday in Chicago. She said she was ashamed and led astray by a sense of entitlement as head of the nation's third-largest school district.
U.S. District Court Judge Edmond Chang told the 68-year-old that the brazenness of bilking a cash-strapped school district suggested she never believed she'd get caught. The federal judge also said he wanted to send a message to other would-be corrupt officials.
Prosecutors asked for a prison term of more than seven years. Chang said he took into account Bennett's good work during her career. He also noted her acts of kindness, including paying for the funerals of some students.
Byrd-Bennett steered $23 million in city contracts to Vranas and another education company executive, Gary Solomon, for kickbacks. Solomon received a seven-year sentence last month.
Byrd-Bennett began her career as a teacher in low-income neighborhoods in New York City.
She's also held top education jobs in Detroit and Cleveland.