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Paul Vallas “Might” Want to Be Mayor of Chicago. Tell Him No.

January 27, 2018

Education reform opportunist, Paul Vallas, is dropping hints that he wants to become the next mayor of Chicago.

Paul Vallas  Paul Vallas

Vallas, who was appointed to the Chicago State University board in January 2017 and who in April 2017 resigned from the board in order to become the university’s chief administrative officer, has now resigned from that post effective March 2018 even though his contract extends through June.

From the January 26, 2018, Chicago Tribune:

As for his current job at Chicago State, Vallas confirmed Friday that he plans to step down in March, even though his contract does not run out until the end of June.

“I am planning on leaving earlier, because I may very well make the mayoral run,” Vallas said. “I feel the university is on the right track.” …

Chicago State board member Nicholas Gowen said he was taken aback by Vallas’ resignation.

“Quite frankly, I’m a little floored,” Gowen said. “If he desires to run for mayor, then of course he can’t keep this position, but that should have been made clear early on if that was his desire. I find it hard to believe this was a lark.”

Mayor Vallas. What an awful thought. (Not that keeping Rahm Emanuel would be any better.)

The Tribune article also touches on Vallas’ previous connections to Gary Solomon, who is now serving a seven-year prison sentence for paying kickback cash to also-sentenced former Chicago Public Schools (CPS) chief, Barbara Byrd Bennett, in exchange for her awarding no-bid contracts to Solomon’s ed consulting company. The Tribune also notes, “Vallas previously has told the Tribune he stopped working with Solomon in 2010, but has declined to explain why.”

However, there is loads more to the Vallas controversy than his connection with Solomon. (For more on the Vallas-Solomon connection see this post by Connecticut blogger, Jonathan Pelto.)

In April 2014, I published a book that includes three chapters on Vallas, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education. The Vallas-related chapter titles are as follows:

  • The Chicago Connection: The Daley-Vallas Years
  • Paul Vallas Beyond Chicago: Wrecking Philadelphia
  • Paul Vallas Beyond Chicago: No Good for New Orleans or Bridgeport

In order to offer readers a feel for exactly what Chicago would be getting (again), I would like to offer excerpts from those three chapters. (Even though I am limiting the excerpts, given the volume of information in the three chapters, this post is unusually long.)

The news is not good, but it is consistent: Vallas does his damage then exits, usually not smoothly but nevertheless relatively unscathed, only to land in yet another public-coffer-yielding opportunity for himself.

Here we go.

From the first chapter, The Chicago Connection: The Daley-Vallas Years:

During his remaining years as mayor, Daley appointed two Chicago Public Schools CEOs; the first was Paul Vallas.

The rest is counterproductive history.

Paul Vallas

Daley initially offered the schools CEO position to his Chief of Staff Gery Chico, who declined yet became president of the newly-created, Daley-appointed School Reform Board—and technically, the school CEO’s boss. Vallas was Daley’s next choice; as the City of Chicago’s budget director, Vallas had a reputation for managing budgets and for reconciling with those upset by Vallas’ budget cuts.10  In the newly-created position of CEO, Vallas was indeed part of a top-down, business model of management. Though he is credited with some “experience” teaching “in Downstate schools and on an American Indian reservation in Montana,”11 Vallas is not an educator. He neither holds degrees in education nor is he certified. Vallas has a B.A. in history and a masters in political science. He has been a revenue analyst, a public finance instructor, an aide to senate president, and executive director of the Illinois Economic and Fiscal Commission.12

Vallas is a businessman. A February 1996 Chicago Tribune article on Vallas notes his “education as a business” model in the following changes to “managing” education:

…Some of the individual decisions Vallas and his team have made [include]-the idea of putting 40 schools in remediation and allowing principals to suspend teachers without pay or a hearing…. …

Under the law, the new schools bosses essentially can hire and fire employees as they see fit, move out of the high-overhead Pershing Road headquarters, and use teacher pension money as well as funds once set aside for poor children to make ends meet in the district’s general operating fund.

They can swoop into non-performing schools, take out adults they believe are causing problems-which they have done-and shift difficult students to one of several alternative schools planned.13

A major push (and issue of controversy) in Vallas’ remediation of public schools involves his declaring schools to be “in educational crisis.” In September 1995, the School Reform board passed a nebulous school intervention plan hinging on criteria including a principal’s failing to implement the school improvement plan, develop a “reasonable” budget, ensure safe school facilities or complete school opening-day paperwork. Given the Amendatory Act of 1995 that already granted Vallas carte blanche in the running of Chicago’s schools, the School Reform Board was now merely offering a formality of agreement. Parents and community leaders were not included in any discussions of this “intervention” that could lead to principal and local school council member removal.14

Vallas also had the power to make budget cuts as he saw fit, which he did:

Weeks after taking the reins as schools CEO, Vallas ushered in a new era of austerity where once there had been rampant waste in city schools. He banned all out-of-town trips by central office staff and clipped funding for catered meals after board meetings.

This insulted many, including some of Vallas’ own staff. [Chief Education Officer Lynn] St. James and one of her top aides were called on the carpet for outfitting their offices with new furniture.15

Vallas’ budget cuts also included sale of surplus property; lowering the amount of funds paid to the teachers’ pension fund; moving funds into the general fund that were formerly earmarked, and canceling a program for networking district computers.16 Indeed, he proclaimed not only a balanced budget but also a surplus. As a 1995 Chicago Tribune article reports:

Vallas, while directing the bulk of the surplus to balance the budget over time, would use $35 million to: help schools extend the class day and year; move violent students from regular classrooms into several new alternative schools; send armies of tutors and mentors into schools to help students who consistently fail; and establish apprenticeship programs for high school students prone to dropping out.

“Student performance improves when schools are better organized, when you have a longer school year and when you get violent students out of the schools,” Vallas said. “Failure is not an option for us; we have to deliver.”17

In truth, the question on which Vallas’ perceived “effectiveness” hinged was one raised by Bennett in 1987—dropout rates and test scores. To corporate reformers, such numbers—especially the test scores—are the primary indicator of education “success.” As the 1996 Chicago Tribune article continues:

Conrad Worrill, professor at Northeastern Illinois University and head of the National Black United Front, said, “At this point in time [February 1996], it’s very difficult to judge this new school team. I think Mr. Vallas is projecting himself as the great savior of Chicago public schools, when in fact what he really is is a master of public relations.

“He seems to deal well with people. He speaks well and he has good presence. But the jury is still out. I haven’t seen test scores rise.18 

Vallas believes that the business model is the solution for achieving the ends of lower dropout rates and higher test scores:

In line with his corporate style, Vallas said he soon will create a new position-local school business manager-so that principals can spend less time doing tedious jobs such as checking bus schedules and school cleanliness and more time trying to boost students’ test scores.

Within a year, he said, more city high schools and elementary schools will merge into “corporate campuses,” united by a common academic theme and funded by adoptive local corporations. One such site, at Wendell Phillips High School Academy, already is in the making.

“This district has got to evolve and become more like a corporation. This is essentially a $3 billion business,” Vallas has said, “and we’ve got to learn how to leverage our buying power.”19 [Emphasis added.] …

Vallas credited rising test scores to the system of placing schools on probation and “imposing curriculum” onto these schools; however, Donald Moore of Designs for Change refuted this connection.  In the 1997 article, Moore notes a trend in improvement over “the last seven years” (1990-1997); thus, the overall trend predated mayoral control. Three years later, Moore presented evidence to show that schools placed on probation in 1996-97 still had roughly 80 percent of students scoring below the national average in reading in the spring of 2000.28  …

In 1999, Vallas decided not to retain students who did not pass ITBS a third time. Astoundingly, amazingly, he made the declaration that these students would likely end up in special education:

Schools chief Paul Vallas told the Tribune the system will not hold back any student a third time in the same grade; the student will be promoted. But those students also will be screened for placement in special education, and Vallas predicted that virtually all screenings will result in such placements.47  [Emphasis added.] …

When Vallas left Chicago, he was facing news of flattened test scores, a new union leadership poised to resist his and Daley’s increasingly punitive reform agenda, and public displeasure from Daley, the sole individual in charge of his employment as CEO.

Arguably, it was not a successful departure. Yet Vallas’ career as an education reformer was far from over.

And from the chapter, Paul Vallas Beyond Chicago: Wrecking Philadelphia:

By spring 2001, the Daley-Vallas honeymoon was undeniably over. This reformer duo squabbled publicly via the press concerning their different views on such issues as retaining students multiple times for failure to pass ITBS and approaches to addressing the embarrassingly low first-day attendance rates at Chicago’s public schools. Add to that the not-so-amazing-and-astounding improvements in the public schools as a whole, and, well, that leads to a Chicago schools CEO who becomes the former Chicago schools CEO.

Paul Vallas did not “reform” Chicago’s public schools. He did promote an atmosphere of pressure and fear.1 Perhaps he thought he might do so statewide; following his exit as Chicago schools CEO, Vallas made a bid for Illinois governor but lost in the primary.2 The winner, Rod Blagejovich, would end up in prison for trying to sell Obama’s vacant senate seat, among other crimes.3

In need of employment and now with experience in disrupting public education, Vallas was a candidate for the position of chancellor of New York City’s schools; NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg was granted mayoral control of schools in June 2002, and he was searching for his first schools chancellor appointee. However, Vallas instead accepted the appointment as Philadelphia schools CEO.4 The School District of Philadelphia (SDP) had just been taken over by the state for both its low test scores and financial deficit.5

The year was 2002. Paul Vallas was going to save Philadelphia’s schools. …

Philadelphia’s public schools did not stand a chance.  In “the most radical reform ever undertaken in a large, urban school district,”9 Philadelphia schools were to be privatized. Philadelphia Governor Mark Schweiker announced his plan to turn over management of SDP to Edison Schools, Inc. approximately 67% of SDP’s 264 schools were to be partially or completely privatized. The privatization plan had begun in August 2001 under then-Governor Tom Ridge and was passed on to Schweiker. Interestingly, the privatization process was postponed until after Ridge’s appointment as secretary of the newly-created Office of Homeland Security under G. W. Bush.10,11 

The projected cost of privatization: In excess of SDP’s $1.7 billion budget, $150 more per year over five years. In 1998, Superintendent Hornbeck, who resigned in June 2000 for lack of fiscal support,12 appealed to the state because he did not have sufficient funds to end the school year with a balanced budget. Never mind that SDP received a disproportionately low per-pupil funding as compared to other Pennsylvania districts….

Perhaps Vallas’ worst moment as a budgeter occurred on December 11, 2006, when he had to face the Philadelphia City Council and justify not just more budget cuts, but more cuts in an attempt to solve a deficit mid-school-year to the tune of $73.3 million.22  Keep in mind that the Philadelphia public school budget was already problematic in February 1998 when then-Superintendent Hornbeck appealed to the state that the $1.7 billion budgeted would not suffice for the entire school year. Fast forward to December 2006, when the budget was set at $2.04 billion, and Vallas was now lacking $73.3 million to balance it. This means that Vallas’ error set the actual available funding at approximately $1.3 billion—almost nine years after Hornbeck voiced his concerns and was met by punitive legislative action—and with the added burden of paying privatizers fees for their “services.” And what of those “services”? Did the dropout rate remarkably improve given the four years that Vallas had been CEO?  Consider this excerpt of the heated December 11, 2006, City Council meeting:

…It was from Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr. that Vallas took the most heat. Goode began by asking who sat in on Vallas’ final job interview and whether he remembered talking about the dropout rate then.

Vallas said the entire School Reform Commission interviewed him and discussed the dropout rate.

“How are young black males performing in the district and how has it changed during your tenure?” Goode asked.

Vallas said that most were still failing but that strides had been made.23  [Emphasis added.]

This is not the promising response one wishes to offer when also acknowledging that the budget is incredibly in the red.

More cuts, more cuts:

The School Reform Commission made more cuts last week and “conditionally authorized” Vallas to trim an additional $20 million, which would get the district the $73.3 million it needs to close the deficit.24 [Emphasis added.]

Once again, Vallas was on his way out from a schools CEO position with displeasure toward him hanging in the air:

The beginning of the end of his tenure happened when, just four months after he had told the Philadelphia City Council that the budget was balanced and a month after the SRC, by a 3–2 vote, had renewed his contract until 2010, the district suddenly was revealed to have a $73 million deficit.

Embarrassed SRC members, led by Whelan and James Gallagher, the president of Philadelphia University, pushed for Vallas’s ouster. In the spring of 2007, they took him to lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel and told him that they had lost confidence in him.25 [Emphasis added.]

Four months later (April 2007), Paul Vallas would resign from yet another schools CEO position,26 but not before drawing a handsome salary and benefits for several years.

The budget slashings incurred by Philadelphia’s schools were not evident in Vallas’ own earnings. His initial salary was $275,000, and it increased to $285,000 in 2007. Interestingly, Vallas’ raises in 2008 and 2009 were tied to teachers’ raises in the collective bargaining agreement. Vallas was also eligible for annual performance bonuses up to 20% of his salary and 30 days a year of paid vacation. However, he did not remain in Philadelphia long enough to garner his $100,000 per year retention bonuses (effective July 2007).27

Vallas made an incredible budgeting blunder in Philadelphia. However, Philadelphia was not the only district suffering from Vallas’ budgeting decisions. By 2006, Vallas’ 1995 Chicago “miracle” budget “surplus” had begun to unravel.28 His 1995 decision to “trim” the budget by paying $83 million less into the Chicago teacher pension fund came home with a fury by 2008:

The political horse-trading that has diminished all of the city’s pension funds can be viewed most dramatically through the recent history of the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund.

This predicament can be traced to decisions made in the wake of Mayor Richard Daley’s takeover of the public school system in 1995.

With help from allies in Springfield, the Daley administration pushed to have the pension code rewritten so property tax money that normally went to pensions would go to Chicago Public Schools coffers. Under the old law, the district’s pension bill was slated to be $93 million in 1995. Instead, it paid just $10 million.

CPS officials went back to Springfield the following year and had the law changed again. This time, the district would have to put money into the pension only if the fund’s level fell below 90 percent.

For the next decade, the district’s contribution to the retirement of tens of thousands of public school teachers was zero. In all, the pension holiday cost the teachers fund more than $1.5 billion from 1995 to 2009, according to fund documents. The state was supposed to help soften the blow by contributing to the fund, but that never happened.

In 2004, it dipped below 90 percent for the first time, but because funding is based on results from two years earlier, that milestone didn’t affect the district until 2006. That year the school system had to contribute $36 million to the pension fund. The bill nearly tripled to $90 million in 2007, and by this year it was $340 million — an 844 percent increase in just four years.29 [Emphasis added.]

This, dear readers, is the long-term result of Vallas Budget Management in Chicago: Short-term gain for long-term fiscal chaos.  Paul Vallas initiated this Chicago budget crisis by shaving off pension funding. Apparently, Philadelphia SRB members did not know of the Chicago Vallas Effect even as they were being publicly humiliated by the Philadelphia Vallas Effect. …

Philadelphia did not benefit from six years of Vallas, his never-ending budget cuts, his high salary, his empty promises to address the dropout rate, and his veneer of testing “success.”

In fall 2007, Philadelphia still had education-related problems, but they were no longer Vallas’ problems. Vallas had moved on to the Big Easy, where he continued his legacy of digging deeper fiscal ditches in the name of Vallas-brand educational “success.”

And, finally, from the chapter, Paul Vallas Beyond Chicago: No Good for New Orleans or Bridgeport:

Vallas has been in the education reform business since 1995 with his appointment as CEO of Chicago schools. That didn’t work out; so, Vallas left for Philadelphia, where that didn’t work out, either. So, as reformers do when their time runs out in a city, he moved on. The next stop for the Vallas Education and Budget Disruption Plan was New Orleans, with its massive infusion of federal aid following Hurricane Katrina, where he would remain for several years before moving on to Bridgeport, where he ended up in the courts for lack of proper credentials. …

It truly astounds me that State Superintendent Paul Pastorek hired Vallas to run RSD (New Orleans’ Recovery School District) given that one primary reason for state takeover of Orleans schools in 2003 involved fiscal mismanagement. But hire Vallas Pastorek did. …

In 2008, Vallas’ “nearly unchecked administrative power” included the following reforms:

…Vallas has changed pretty much everything, all at once, with little opposition. He lengthened the school day and year, adding seven weeks of instruction, including two more hours of math and 1.5 hours of reading each day. He started a “credit recovery” program for students who fail core classes. He has remade RSD’s high schools into career-themed academies and opened a school for “overaged underachievers.”

He is standardizing the curriculum and brought in Read180, a computerized program for older, struggling readers. He installed Internet-linked whiteboards in fourth- through 12th-grade classrooms and last year began handing out laptop computers to every high-school student.16 

As a “placed” corporate reform CEO, Vallas answers to no stakeholders in the newly-washed-away New Orleans. Actually involving the community in decisions affecting the community is a complex business, and Vallas prefers a dictatorial role, one where he gets to make the people’s decisions for the people and answer to no groups representing the people. Consider this 2008 exchange with New York Times reported Paul Tough:

When I asked Paul Vallas what made New Orleans such a promising place for educational reform, he told me that it was because he had no “institutional obstacles” — no school board, no collective bargaining agreement, a teachers’ union with very little power. “No one tells me how long my school day should be or my school year should be,” he said. “Nobody tells me who to hire or who not to hire. I can hire the most talented people. I can promote people based on merit and based on performance. I can dismiss people if they’re chronically nonattending or if they’re simply not performing.”17 [Emphasis added.]

It sure is easy to run a district by use of unchecked power.

Despite his carte blanche activity in RSD, Vallas continued to promote the idea that he would leave by 2010:

Whatever happens, it’s clear Vallas won’t stick around too long — he has said as much.

After Vallas left Philadelphia, his wife and three of his four sons returned to their native Chicago. Vallas spends four or five days there each month, and he has coyly suggested he might run for governor of Illinois in 2010 — he narrowly lost the Democratic nomination in 2002 to Gov. Ron Blagojevich. [Emphasis added.]

Vallas openly admits to grooming his chief of staff to take over, saying two years are sufficient to get his reforms in place.18

About those trips to visit his family in Chicago: Apparently, Vallas developed a habit of using his Louisiana-taxpayer-funded automobile. This information was disclosed in the 2009 Louisiana Legislative Audit of RSD: 31 trips, with the state paying $974 for fuel and $776 for damages in an auto accident Vallas was faulted with while driving his Louisiana vehicle to a press conference in Chicago. Furthermore, Vallas did not maintain the required vehicle use log.

State Superintendent Paul Pastorek verbally approved of Vallas’ using his state vehicle for personal trips despite the state administrative code that notes use of state vehicles is limited to state business. Pastorek said he thought Vallas had only taken six trips. Apparently Pastorek never asked Vallas to account for use of his state vehicle.19  …

Four consecutive audits of RSD finances during Vallas’ time as superintendent yielded a lack of diligent fiscal oversight, at best. Vallas assumed superintendency of RSD in July 2007. In June 2008, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor Audit Management Letter included numerous mismanagement issues. In short, the corruption for which OPSB had become known pre-Katrina continued on Vallas’ watch. First, RSD employees had been overpaid $427,695 as of September 30, 2007. Furthermore, 34 laptops paid for with federal funds ($56,128) had been stolen in February 2007 (pre-Vallas); however, as of October 2007, RSD had notified in writing neither the district attorney nor the legislative auditor. Third, RSD charged the federal School Breakfast Program and National School Lunch Program for students not eligible to receive subsidized meals. The list continues.30

In an audit conducted in 2013 concerning modular campus construction for the period of January 2007 through September 2009 regards $6.1 million in “questionable payments for services beyond the scope of firms’ contracts, materials that were never provided, and unreasonably high rates”:

The audit found that Arrighi-Simoneaux charged the RSD $170,571 for fuel for temporary generators that was never provided and $37,843 for 16 light pole foundations that were never built. An additional $472,852 that was charged for foundations “appears to be unreasonable for the service provided,” according to the audit. The firm billed at least $139,000 in work beyond the scope of the contract.

Arrighi-Simoneaux’s unit pricing may also have been too high. For instance, the company charged $110 to drill each of 180 four-inch holes in wooden floors, though the task takes less than 30 seconds, auditors say.

As for LH&J [Linfield, Hunter & Junius], the audit found that the company billed a number of basic design services under a higher rate reserved for special services. Those fees also seem to be high, according to the audit, citing a $560,000 charge to increase the width of buildings by 8 feet.31 [Emphasis added.]

The information presented above is only an excerpt. What is clear is that fiscal oversight was seriously lacking on Vallas’ watch to the tune of millions upon millions of dollars in missing or stolen property, overpayments to employees, overpayments for goods and services, and payments for goods not purchased and services not rendered. Notice also that such gross fiscal mismanagement occurred year after year. Consider this excerpt from the legislative auditor’s report of RSD for fiscal year 2010:

For the fourth consecutive year, RSD did not tag and report equipment as required by state equipment management regulations and did not maintain accurate information in the state’s movable property system, Protégé. As reported in a Louisiana Property Assistance Agency (LPAA) report on RSD, RSD failed to enter 13,247 assets into the asset management system within 60 days of receipt and 1,262 items valued at $2,141,347 could not be located. In our test of 10 equipment purchases and a physical check of 18 property items, we identified items that were not located, not tagged within 60 days, and tagged but not recorded in the property system. In addition, RSD reported 35 incidents involving 380 movable property items with an approximate value of $188,600 as missing or stolen in fiscal year 2010.

For the fourth consecutive year, RSD identified overpayments made to employees, did not ensure that employee separation dates were accurate or timely, and did not have adequate documentation to support certain payroll charges. Payroll overpayment claims identified by RSD during fiscal year 2010 totaled $18,206. …

For the third consecutive year, RSD did not ensure that certifications for payroll expenditures charged to federal programs were completed as required by federal regulations.32 [Emphasis added.]  

Apparently when billions in federal disaster relief are pouring in, there is no need to account for the money. The issues mentioned above were also mentioned in the RSD audit for fiscal year 2011:

For the fifth consecutive year, RSD did not ensure that movable property was safeguarded against loss including loss, arising from unauthorized use and misappropriation. RSD’s annual certification of property inventory identified 403 unlocated items totaling $553,385. Of the 403 unlocated items, 346 items were computers. In addition, RSD reported 194 movable property items totaling $168,375 as missing or stolen in fiscal year 2011.

For the fifth consecutive year, RSD identified overpayments made to employees, did not ensure that employee separation dates were accurate or entered timely, and did not have adequate documentation to support certain payroll charges.

Payroll overpayment claims identified during fiscal year 2011 totaled $8,507. …

For the fourth consecutive year, RSD did not ensure that certifications for payroll expenditures charged to federal programs were completed as required by federal regulations. 33 [Emphasis added.]

During the course of his time as RSD superintendent, Vallas mismanaged RSD’s finances. In his first and perhaps only superintendency in which funding was amply available, Vallas failed to monitor the funds. He did manage to make dozens of car trips to Chicago, and he did manage to consult abroad, missing a total of six weeks of work away from RSD to do so.

Haiti, Chile, but Still RSD

While still superintendent of RSD, Paul Vallas began advising an international development bank in Haiti on rebuilding a school system following widespread natural disaster.34,35 Vallas did not run for Illinois governor or for any other political post, citing his “need to finish what he started” in New Orleans.36 If his goal was to leave most RSD schools as still within the “failing” designation as determined by the state while not adequately supervising RSD spending, then he accomplished his goal.  However, his physical presence in Louisiana leaves room for doubt about Vallas publicized dedication to RSD. Despite his noble words, Vallas missed 48 full days of work in Louisiana from February to October 2010 due to his traveling to Haiti. Whereas he did not collect pay for his time away, he was not present to serve in the capacity for which he was hired, as former BESE member Linda Johnson observes:

“I think it was a misuse of his services,” Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Linda Johnson said. “We pay him to do work in New Orleans. Until New Orleans no longer needed help, he should have stayed in New Orleans… Of course I want Haiti to return to a robust country with great education. However, I feel New Orleans is still in the state of recovery and needed him there,” she said. “Large companies loan their people to help when disasters occur. However, I am certain they would not loan their people if they were also in need.”37

In 2011, Vallas also “consulted” in Chile, where his privatization efforts were met with clear understanding from Chilean students:

Dramatic student protests increased in the streets of Chilean cities as the Race To The Top style reforms increasingly tighten corporate control over Chile’s public schools less than a generation after the South American nation escaped the grip of the first round of reforms brought by the “Chicago Boys” during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. On July 14, [2011,] an estimated 20,000 people, mostly students, too[k] to the streets of Santiago to protest the neoliberal attacks on public education and higher education, only to be met with water cannons and tear gas, as well as police beatings which were caught on dramatic video. …

According to a report from Reuters, more than 20,000 people demonstrated against the USA style reforms in Santiago, the capital, while being attacked by speeding military vehicles, some of which were equipped with water cannons and tear gas sprayers. Squads of heavily armored Chilean soldiers also attacked individual protesters who became isolated from the groups, but generally shied away from the main large group protests.38 [Emphasis added.]

American education privatization efforts appeal to those abroad wishing to exercise continued control over institutions rightfully belonging to the public. The so-called “reforms” do not appeal to those who wish not to be lorded over by dictatorial-style education mandates. …

Vallas’ “consulting” did not end with Haiti and Chile. Despite Vallas’ delayed crash-and-burn “contribution” to the fiscal devastation of Chicago’s public schools; despite his $73 million “uh-oh” in Philadelphia, and despite his gross fiscal and property mismanagement in New Orleans, Vallas partnered with Cambium Learning to market “the Vallas model of reform’:

The Vallas reform model includes not just improving academic performance, as other turnaround systems do, but also stabilizing districts by balancing their budgets and reorganizing their administrations. “We are committed to affordable change,” Vallas says. “You will be amazed at the efficiencies and cost savings you can bring to a district.”39 …

On January 1, 2012, Vallas was to officially assume the role of interim superintendent of Bridgeport’s schools and solve issues of Bridgeport’s $6 million budget deficit.41 Vallas’ pathway into Bridgeport comes via the new Connecticut State Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, who worked with Vallas in during a time that Pryor volunteered in both New Orleans and Haiti.42 …

However, Vallas did not possess the required credentials to become Bridgeport superintendent, even interim superintendent. …

The issue of the legality of all of this “waiving” of credentials was in Superior Court,47 and on July 10, 2013, Judge Barbara Bellis ruled that Vallas was not a “properly credentialed superintendent” and that he needed to vacate his positon.48  However, true to that “foot in the door” reformer ploy, the illegally-state-run school board was in a rush to approve of Vallas’ permanent contract.49 On July 26, 2013, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that Vallas can remain as superintendent pending his appeal.50

In their devoted haste to hand Bridgeport schools over to the state, business leaders set up a “fund” to pay for Vallas’ employment, the Bridgeport Education Reform Fund. Educational “consultants” are also paid out of this fund. The public does not get to know the secrets of the fund, including who the donors are or what the balance is. …

For almost two decades, Paul Vallas has sold himself as a corporate reformer. He is willing to slash tight budgets, and he is willing to mismanage ample budgets. He is willing to privatize districts, close schools, and fire teachers. He is willing to sacrifice all of those below him in a given district for the test scores, graduation rates, or school performance scores that he cannot seem to consistently raise. He has, however, managed to consistently collect fine salaries with benefits based on the unfounded reputation he has as a reforming miracle man.

He never seems to be out of a job for long, for someone with the cash, influence, and interest in promoting the shadow of corporate reform success is always at his door.

There is much more to the three chapters than I included above. Too, beyond the writing of the book, in November 2013, Vallas announced his departure from Bridgeport to join former Illinois Governor, Pat Quinn, as Quinn’s running mate– but not before he threatened to sue if the board did not reschedule his departure from February 7, 2014, to March 1, 2014– and pay him for the time.

Quinn lost; Bruce Rauner, a nightmare in his own right, won. So, no Paul Vallas as lieutenant governor. Vallas’ involvements between November 2014 and January 2017 are somewhat sketchy. An April 2016, Wharton Club of Chicago speaking engagement announcement introduces Vallas as follows:

He currently serves as the founding CEO of the School Construction Fund, a new national nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting K-12 schools finance and operationalize their buildings. Paul also consults to underperforming school districts to help them more effectively leverage their finances to gain stability while increasing classroom resources that strengthen educational delivery, improve academic outcomes, and narrow the achievement gap.

Paul Vallas offering financial advice. After reading the chapter excerpts, pause and think on that.

The referenced “national” nonprofit, School Construction Fund, has a single tax form on file, for October 2015 to September 2016, and it reads like nothing more than padding to make it sound like Vallas and “president” Steven Hodas were doing something beyond spending what appears to be a single $250,000 contribution. The New York-based organization received $250,000 in contributions and spent exactly that amount by year’s end, with $150,195 spent on salaries and other compensation and $99,805 on “other expenses.”

Vallas received $35,000 reportedly for 40 hrs./wk. (not likely) for “researching potential avenues for facilitating the rehabilitation and development of physical plants for grade K-12 schools to support the growth of high-quality schools nationally.” What exactly this means, who knows.

But Vallas is looking for a new, high-profile gig, and Chicago, he wants to run the 2018 mayoral show.

May it not be, for your sake. And may Emanuel lose to someone better, as well.



I wrote a few books. Here’s one on the history of charter schools and vouchers:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

And here are two more: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. Swell stuff.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

  1. Robert Tellman permalink

    Maybe he will take John White with him to Chicago. We can only pray.

  2. Lee Barrios permalink

    Absolutely impossible for me to understand how these supposedly intelligent people in respected positions can fall for Vallas’ scams. Unless they are on the dole themselves.

  3. Even with all you are saying about Vallas, can he overhaul the debilitating Chicago School System through Machine politics?

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Paul Vallas as Chicago’s Next Mayor?? Talk About a Terrible Mistake. | deutsch29: Mercedes Schneider's Blog
  2. Mercedes Schneider: Chicago Voters! Don’t Be Fooled by Paul Vallas! | Diane Ravitch's blog

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