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Ex-Chicago Schools Boss Paul Vallas to Be Illinois Governor's Running Mate

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, has selected former Chicago Public Schools chief Paul Vallas to be his running mate as lieutenant governor in the upcoming 2014 gubernatorial contest, CBS Chicago reported Nov. 8.

Vallas was CEO of Chicago schools from 1995 to 2001, and he's also had stints running the public school systems in New Orleans and Philadelphia. He's currently serving as superintendent of Bridgeport public schools in Connecticut, following a months-long legal battle this year in which his credentials for the job were challenged; at one point, a judge ordered him to leave his position because of what the judge deemed was his lack of certification.

Vallas appealed that ruling in Connecticut and stayed on the job, but in September, three members of the Bridgeport school board considered to be Vallas' allies were defeated by candidates who had the backing ot the teachers' union, as my colleague Lesli Maxwell at District Dossier reported in September. That meant Vallas, who oversaw major budget cuts in Bridgeport schools, had likely lost the support of the majority of board members.

Vallas' work has been given plaudits by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who succeeded him as chief of Chicago schools, for his education policy decisions. He was in charge of the Recovery School District in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and oversaw a complete transformation of the public school system there. But given his track record, some have opposed Vallas' reforms as being too friendly to charter schools, and his opponents in Bridgeport feared he would open up the school system to privatization. He's likely to inspire strong opinions, pro and con, in the education policy and politics world. 

This isn't Vallas' first try at electoral office in the Land of Lincoln—he ran in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in 2002. He came in second to none other than Rod Blagojevich, who ultimately won the governor's race but is now in jail on corruption charges.

"I've known Paul Vallas for 30 years, and he's never been shy about fighting for education reform and opportunities for working people," Quinn said in a statement when he announced his selection of Vallas (hat tip to Alexander Russo).

Quinn might need every ounce of help he can get. It's been a while now since this poll came out, but back in April, Quinn had the 2nd-highest disapproval rating of any governor in the country at 55 percent (Rhode Island chief executive Lincoln Chafee was at the bottom). And that was before state government belly-flopped on striking a deal to resolve the state's deep and very public pension problems.

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