Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas is part of the growing list of individuals challenging Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the 2019 election.
Vallas ran CPS from 1995 to 2001 under then-Mayor Richard M. Daley. After leaving that post, he made an unsuccessful bid for governor and went on to run the schools in Philadelphia, Louisiana, and Connecticut. In 2014, he was Gov. Pat Quinn’s running mate in the gubernatorial election.
Morning Shift spoke with Vallas about his plans for Chicago’s budget, his tenure in the Daley administration, and his criticisms of Emanuel. Here are some interview highlights. (You can also find interviews with the other mayoral candidates here.)
On plans for a school improvement strategy that will boost enrollment
Paul Vallas: During my tenure at the Chicago Public Schools, our enrollment grew by 30,000. It’s the only period in the last three decades when enrollment actually grew and it’s because of the policies that we were adopting. And because the school system was growing, we were getting considerable more money from the state. At the end of the day, there’s been an absence of long-term financial planning and the budgets have really been largely political budgets — they determine what decisions are being made based on the next election.
On taking politics out of budget planning
Vallas: I’ve never considered politics when it comes to decision-making. I never have. I didn’t do it at the Chicago Public Schools. I have not done it in the other crisis situations that I’ve been asked to come in and to help resolve — like in Philadelphia, rebuilding schools in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, or even the work that I’ve done internationally. At the end of the day, it’s not about politics. It’s about long-term planning and it’s about designing budgets that are investment vehicles.
On if he will gain support from former Mayor Richard M. Daley
Vallas: Other than calling [former Mayor Richard M. Daley] and tell him I was running — and I made a call to a number of individuals, both current officeholders and past officeholders, who I had worked with. I don’t know who he is going to support. I certainly haven’t asked him for his support. I hope everybody supports me, but I’m not out there lobbying or soliciting.
I’m going to run an issue-oriented campaign. Beginning next week, I’m going to make a series of policy statements that are going to offer the type of details that would be offered if I had gotten elected mayor and I was actually bringing my proposals on public safety, infrastructure, and on school reform before the City Council. So hopefully the election can be a referendum on my ideas and hopefully those ideas will be attractive enough to the vast majority of voters.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire interview, which was adapted for the web by Bea Aldrich.