Over the last decade the Chicago Public Schools has faced many challenges and achieved many milestones. As evidenced recently the Chicago Public Schools has demonstrated academic growth at the elementary school level, increased graduation rates, increases in freshman on track rates, and record scholarship dollars for high school graduates. While these gains are commendable the Chicago Public Schools still has many challenges.

Some of those challenges include, stabilized school finances, decline in student enrollment, school safety, technological updates, access to expanded educational opportunity, high dropout rates and unresolved school closure issues. Many of these challenges are not exclusive to the Chicago Public Schools but are a microcosm of the challenges that school districts face throughout the country.

Paul Vallas understands these challenges from his many years of success as CEO and Superintendent in Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Connecticut, and internationally renowned work in fixing broken or developing new education systems for the US Department of Justice and countries of Haiti and Chile.

As Mayor of Chicago, Paul Vallas will implement a dynamic Education plan that will focus on continued academic achievement for “All of Chicago.” To create this lasting change will require a bold plan of strategies. The highlights of this plan are as follows:

  • Ensure Financial Stability And Predictability
      1. Bring to CPS the long-term financial planning model necessary to enable long-term financial stability and ensure that every school has the resources and supports needed to be effective educational institutions and community centers.
      2. This is the approach Vallas previously utilized at CPS to transform a projected structural budget deficit of over $1.2 billion into a $1 billion cash balance, resulting in the earning of twelve bond upgrades. (Attachment #1).
      3. With the passage of normal costs combined with the prospect that Governor Pritzker will fully fund the new School Aid Formula, a five year plan can be developed similar to the successful five year growth plan Vallas deployed while CEO of CPS.
      4. Beginning with the foundation of a five year plan ensures estimated available revenues and costs are balanced.
      5. Building school budgets and staffing models into long-term financial plans ensures that there is equity and schools are provided the sustainable resources needed to support, improve and expand instruction and neighborhood program offerings.


  • Expand High Quality School Choices
      1. Implement a strategy of expanding and supporting access for high quality education options, including ensuring students in every high school are provided full access to AP courses, Dual Enrollment and Early College, and by placing magnet-type programs – like International Baccalaureate (IB) – in neighborhood schools.
      2. Placing dual enrollment and early college programs, and placing IB and other magnet-type programs in neighborhood schools is a simple and cost-effective way to expand new program offerings throughout the city.
      3. Full program roster expansion is not completed over a single year; the infrastructure and number of options is ramped up over multiple years. This plan is more reliant upon and enabled by an effective staffing strategy.
      4. Accomplishing this is a matter of strategic scheduling (e.g., a student may take a college-level course as an alternative to a core class).
      5. This will provide students the opportunity in their junior and  senior years to enroll in early college/dual enrollment programs.
      6. Success comes down to course offerings and planning.
      7. Making programs attractive makes schools attractive, which  draws in students and results in more money for the district.


  • Implement Strategies That Will Eliminate The Achievement Gap
      1. Expand early childhood programs, amend K-8 curriculum and implement instructional strategies and supports to close the achievement gap and ensure that all students are ready for high school. This strategy will include universal “Pre-Natal to the Classroom” services and expanded extended day and extended year interventions to close the gap.
      2. These initiatives increased academic performance every year of Vallas’s tenure at CPS, more than doubled reading and math scores during his tenure at the School District of Philadelphia and resulted in Recovery  School District of New Orleans leading the state in growth for six consecutive years.
      3. The growth in each district under Vallas’s leadership was largely accomplished by providing superior curriculum instructional models and by having extended day and extended year time dedicated to academic  interventions and increased instructional time on task.
      4. This is less an increased funding issue and more a budget prioritizing issue and the effective coordination of all available public and private resources toward programs that accomplish specific educational objectives.
      5. This program becomes a part of MTSS (academic intervention; formally RTI).
      6. At CPS and in Philadelphia, schools were open an additional two hours a day during the school year and an additional six weeks over the summer. Instructional time for New Orleans schools averaged one third higher than mandated by state law.
      7. Prenatal to the Classroom is one of the least expensive and most effective programs for closing the achievement gap.
      8. The identified annual amount the Emmanuel administration needed for its Universal Four Year old preschool program could cover the additional costs of the Pre-Natal to the Classroom program and much of the cost associated with after school/extended day programming and expanded magnet programs.
      9. The long-term savings from the Pre-Natal to the Classroom program is immense in reduced costs for children with special needs and other costs associated with the failure to close the achievement gap.


  • Ensure Schools Are Modern, Safe And Superior Learning Centers
      1. Ensure that all school buildings are modern, safe and environmentally healthy, and that all classrooms are superior state-of-the-art learning environments offering the technology needed to enhance instruction, education offerings and supports.
      2. The CPS Capital Plan will be reprioritized to focus on repairing and modernizing existing schools.
      3. Effective use of technology will expand teacher resources and educational offerings and choices.
      4. Modernizing and maintaining state-of-the-art classrooms will ramp up over a five-year period through standardization, strategic sourcing and leasing.
      5. Safety will be further bolstered via restoration of the School Patrol and gradual conversion of CPS Safety and Security positions into CPD positions. CPS will pick up current costs for security while CPD will  cover the difference. This will make over 500 additional CPD Officers available for special duty ~165 days of the year when schools are not open, saving additional tens of millions in overtime for CPD.
      6. The plan will restore the student safety protocols and infrastructure implemented during Vallas’s tenure, and dismantled after he departed, including a 24/7 reporting and crisis intervention system.
      7. Utilizing emergent technology will enable a modern school digital social/safety net.


  • Make Available System-Wide Career And Technical Education
      1. Implement system-wide Career and Technical Education and Work Study programs available to juniors and seniors in every neighborhood high school.
      2. All high schools will offer Career and Technical Education and Work Study opportunities, with a primary focus on the junior and senior years.
      3. Work Study will utilize the Cristo Rey Model and include Student Entrepreneurial Programs.
      4. The intent is to provide all students with dual track opportunities, prepare them for the workforce and incentivize them to complete school. This will enable students to transition more easily to college or employment.
      5. These programs can be made affordable with the effective use of technology, the right business and training school partnerships and a smart staffing and course offering strategy.
      6. Funding can be further supplemented by other available private and public funds.


  • Revitalize Declining Schools And Repurpose Closed Buildings
      1. Develop a long-term plan to right-size the system by reinventing struggling schools and repurposing schools that have closed or on the verge of closing.
      2. Prior to Vallas’s tenure at CPS, the district lost 110,000 students from its peak year in 1979. During his tenure from 1995-2001, enrollment grew by almost 30,000. Since then, it has lost over 30,000 students.
      3. The long-term plan will include considerations for right-sizing the district to reflect demographic changes. It will also implement a strategy to make the school system more attractive and grow.
      4. Existing schools with declining enrollments need to be reinvented by adding high quality magnet programs, like IB, or giving them a new focus. For example, a declining school on the West Side could be converted into an already-needed Agricultural Science school, or a      struggling high school could be reinvented as a First Responders Academy.
      5. Closed schools or schools on the verge of closing could be repurposed as Adult High Schools via funding available under a new state law or Alternative Schools.
      6. The primary strategy for shuttered buildings will be to reopen them as community centers that will offer Adult Education and Occupation Training to the tens of thousands of displaced adults, mostly men of color, age 17-50, who are high school dropouts, chronically unemployed or ex-offenders.
      7. There is readily available and likely funding for such initiatives; federal WIOA and WOTC funding is available for both the training and hiring of the aforementioned population, and the new governor indicates the state will fund the Adult High School Program.
      8. Any decision to close or repurpose a school will be made with the input and approval of the community.


  • Create A Pipeline Of Quality School Leaders And Teachers
      1. Restore the CPS Leadership Academy to guide education policy and help recruit and train the next generation of school leaders, while establishing an apprentice program that will expand school supports as well as recruiting and training of the next generation of teachers and support staff candidates.
      2. Creating the Chicago Teacher Apprenticeship Program will expand the pool of diversified, highly qualified teacher candidates by incentivizing teacher candidates from all over the country.
      3. Establishing the CPS Career Changer teacher program will be enabled by entering into public-private partnerships with institutions already offering high quality programs.
      4. Establishing CPS own Troops to Teachers Program and  Alternative Teacher Certification Program with HBCU’s will further diversify and improve the quality of the teacher candidates pool.
      5. Any alternative certification programs will be developed in full partnership with the Chicago Teachers Union – and not without such a partnership.
      6. Restoring the old CPS leadership training programs (such as LAUNCH and LIFT) in partnerships with CPS’s and Northwestern or an alternative University will provide infrastructure for the pipeline.
      7. Apprenticeships could be expanded to include nursing,  counseling, psychology and business students, who would be trained like first time employees and could provide immediate supplemental support to CPS teachers and staff. This is meant to supplement, not displace existing personnel.
      8. Maintain the National Teachers Academy, which was created by  the Vallas administration, and work in partnership with the CTU to improve and expand the program.


  • Implement A Governance Structure That Ensures Accountability
    1. Appoint a hybrid Chicago Public School Board of Education by appointing board members who are elected by the public, not the Mayor. The Board will have at minimum seven members with three appointed and three elected; the President will be appointed by the Mayor.
    2. Publicly elected Board members could be elected in “at large” elections or by Local School Council members.
    3. All Boards that have oversight of public funds and have critical public service responsibilities need to have civilian representation, and civilians need to be selected by the public at large.
    4. Public representation needs to be accompanied by complete, convenient and expedited public access to all relevant information, especially financial and information related to performance.
    5. Information needs to be available digitally and in a format that can be easily navigated and understood. Public representation must be matched by public access to information and transparency.