VALLAS FACTS: 'The Paul Vallas Hoax' in the March 2002 Substance exposed every lie, half-truth, and self serving utteration of Vallas... But it took other places a decade to check out Vallas's nonsense and try to stop his 'school reform' nonsense

[Editor's Note: Substance had the story first, with all the facts. Paul Vallas was a fraud ten and fifteen years ago, in 1998 or 2002, just as he has been exposed to be in 2013 in Connecticut. But the facts were ignored for more than a decade. And during those years Paul G. Vallas (and at times his so-called "team") cavorted around the country, pushing the toxic sludge of corporate "school reform" across the USA (and even into other nations). How did it happen? Basically, the majority of reporters (and school board members) simply recycled Vallas's own versions of reality, carefully selected from a pile of news clippings from Chicago. The contrary evidence was ignored, while members of the Business Roundtable and other plutocrats pushed Vallas on one school district after another.

By the time then Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley (above right) accepted the resignation of his first schools "Chief Executive Officer" Paul G. Vallas (above left), even Daley had gotten fed up with Vallas's self-serving craziness. Vallas, who had been Chicago budget chief (and who had never worked as an executive in the private sector before become a "Chief Executive Officer" at CPS when mayoral control and corporate school reform went into high gear in 1995) was appointed CEO by Daley in July 1995. For the first couple of years, Vallas enjoyed a honeymoon thanks to the willingness of Chicago's corporate news organizations to repeat Vallas's statements as if each were factual. But after Vallas assured Daley that the Chicago Teachers Union election was a shoo-in for Vallas's buddy Tom Reece, Daley realized, as Deborah Lynch became CTU President, that Vallas was not only inaccurate, but dangerously out of touch with the city's angry teachers. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Substance had the story early, and we published it. After covering the hypocrisies and lies of Paul Vallas's regime in the final years of the 20th Century, Substance covered Vallas's departure in June and July 2001. In May and June 2001, Vallas finally forced the hand of an exasperated Mayor Richard M. Daley, who replaced Vallas, to no benefit for the public schools, with Arne Duncan in July 2001. Vallas briefly proclaimed that he would take some time off, play some ball with his kids, and rethink what he was doing. Ha! Substance said. Within a month, Vallas was angling to try and become Governor of Illinois. Playing ball would have to wait.

By early 2002, with the Democratic primary in Illinois looming, we had to get the wrod out beyond our print edition. The debut of Substance on the Web devoted more than 15,000 words of reporting and analysis to the lies of Paul Vallas as he tried to become Governor of Illinois.

In March 2002, as Paul G. Vallas was running for the Democratic nomination for governor of Illinois, Substance published a series of articles in print and on line (in our first Web edition, at our "old" site, The series was called "The Paul Vallas Hoax." In that edition, our readers learned about everything from Vallas's phony resume (he claimed to have taught; it wasn't true; he claimed to have authored major scholarly papers; again, not true; etc.) to his racism.

Vallas lost the vote, but not the affection of some of the pundits and the plutocracy. As a result, the Vallas show, with all its lurid repetitions, went on the road, first to Philadelphia, then to New Orleans, down to Haiti, and on to Connecticut. At each point, the carefully scripted lines, the massive clip files (each of which repeated the previous claims), and the fussy monitoring of any criticisms continued. Always at the center was Vallas's ego -- by the time he arrived in Connecticut, he compared himself to Michael Jordan and blushed humbly while his supporters called him an educational "Rock Star" (a phrase used to describe other frauds and fakes and con men and women to emerge from the Chicago hoax).

On June 28, 2013, a Connecticut court has again stopped Vallas. We want to share here what we reported 11 years ago. With the widespread collapse of the corporate school reform that was promoted by the plutocrats and pundits who praised Vallas unblushingly for nearly two decades, maybe it's finally time that the next school district doesn't get suckered into hiring Paul Vallas for a quarter of a million dollars a year to "save" their public schools. We'll see.

THE PAUL VALLAS HOAX, March 2002 at Introduction and summary index.

Chicago teachers, administrators and support staff have long known the truth about Paul Vallas. Paul Vallas is a hoax. When Paul Vallas was CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, they watched with dismay as he lied to the press, abused veteran educators, gave out lucrative no-bid contracts, misused standardized tests and engaged in shocking acts of racial bigotry. Nearly 2/3 of the Illinois Democratic voters rejected the Vallas hoax when they went to the polls and voted in the March 19 [2002] primary.

Substance commends their judgement.


"Anybody but Vallas by Sharon Schmidt" 35 good reasons not to vote for Paul Vallas. The URL for the original article on line is:

35 reasons why Democrats who care about justice in the public schools should vote for …

Anybody but Vallas. By Sharon Schmidt
, March 2002 Substance

Before casting their ballots for the Democratic candidate for governor on March 19 [2002], Illinois voters ought to consider what Paul G. Vallas actually did for the Chicago public schools.
 The following are examples of some of the damage that Vallas did during the six years he was “Chief Executive Officer” of Chicago’s public schools.

1. Union busting. Vallas cut Board of Education union jobs by privatizing as many board services as possible. Instead of continuing to pay board employees — custodians, lunchroom workers and tradesmen — for routine work, expensive private contractors and consultants were hired instead. Vallas also privatized after school programs by contracting with outside companies instead of paying teachers their hourly wages for test prep classes and other programs. Ashley’s Cleaning Service, Kinkos printing and Kaplan Test Prep, among many others, reaped lucrative contracts. Over 1,000 board employees were fired. The wages and benefits of the private companies’ employees were cut for doing the same job as the former board employees, even where union workers were still used.

2. Oracle fiasco. Vallas dumped an old, but viable, in-house computer system and software package and replaced them with new programs, machines, and personnel supplied by Oracle Corporation. More than six years and $100 million later, the new system is still largely inoperative and staff morale has sunk to rock bottom among both computer staff and the would-be users.

3. Arthur Andersen no-bid contracts. Vallas allowed Arthur Andersen to replace in-house printers, budget analysts, auditors, and numerous other board personnel via non-competitively bid consultant contracts that were costly and ineffectual. The total cost is over $10 million.

4. The closing of the Board of Education’s print shop. Vallas closed a full-service, in-house printing plant at the former board headquarters. Since the privatization of the board’s printing, millions of dollars have been spent on outside, private, non-union companies for day to day printing (to Kinko's and Andersen, for example) that could have been done more cheaply and quickly by the Board. Vallas gave away the print shop equipment, which included preprinters, binders, and a 25-inch Heidelberg press to various city agencies. High schools with print shops were denied the equipment. As a result of privatization, 12 highly-skilled union workers (printers, binders and typographers) were laid off.

5. Unnecessary move of school system’s central office headquarters. Vallas moved the Chicago public schools’ central office from one location at 1819 W. Pershing Road to eight sites that stretch from the Loop to Julian High School. In spite of the large number of sites, many office spaces are cramped and overcrowded, especially 125 S. Clark St., because Vallas increased the bureaucracy more rapidly than he acquired the property to house the administrators. The moves cost taxpayers over $100 million when time lost, repairs and modifications to the new sites are added to the cost of the properties.

6. Inequitable spending on capital developments. Vallas rewarded wealthy, white neighborhoods on the Northside and in the Gold Coast and South Loop with new, expensive school buildings and community recreation centers. Many poorer, minority neighborhoods with severely overcrowded classrooms and dilapidated school buildings are still waiting for relief. The $3 billion capital development program was the most mismanaged and corrupt in the history of Chicago’s public schools.

7. Wasteful spending on unnecessary and ugly wrought iron fences. Vallas neglected hundreds of schools’ serious capital development needs, such as overcrowding and leaking roofs, and spent millions on unnecessary and ugly wrought iron fences.

8. Bloated bureaucracy. Vallas increased the school system’s central office bureaucracy. Vallas doubled the number of lawyers in the law department. He increased the budget of the “Office of Communications” from approximately $500,000 per year to $4 million, but reduced the amount of public information available to the press and public. Vallas and his lieutenants invented the offices of “Accountability” and “School and Community Relations.” Both of these enormously expensive offices are used to house large patronage armies, including relatives of prominent politicians. Finally, the Vallas administration sprinkled unqualified political appointees from City Hall throughout the school system in patronage jobs that pay between $50,000 and $125,000 per year. Chicago now has more political patronage in its school system than at any time in its history — including the scandalous days during the 1930s and 1940s when the system almost lost its accreditation because of patronage and corruption.

9. Taxpayer money spent on “bonuses” for public employees. Vallas awarded $1,500 to $5,000 bonuses to 19 of the highest paid administrators in the schools’ central office, in late 1996. In the years that followed, hundreds of administrators received extra payments which Vallas covered up in violation of Illinois Freedom of Information laws.

10. Wasteful spending on consultants. Vallas awarded millions of dollars in contracts to universities, private corporations and individuals to be “external partners” to schools Vallas placed on academic probation. Probation was due solely to schools’ Iowa and TAP scores. The money spent on these patronage programs came out of the same funds that could have been used to lower class size, raise teacher pay, provide schools with additional security and safety, or improve early childhood education.

11. Misuse and overuse of standardized tests. Vallas used the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (elementary schools) and TAP tests (high schools) for “accountability” of the teaching and learning of the curriculum. Nationally normed tests such as the TAP and Iowa are not supposed to be used for these purposes, according the tests’ publishers and the most prestigious academic leaders in the United States, men and women who study and comment on testing as part of their lifelong professional work.

12. Grade retention and summer school based solely on test scores. Vallas used Iowa test scores on reading and math to retain students in grade, regardless of many students’ passing grades, good attendance and teacher recommendations. This policy, which was condemned by national testing experts, undermined the authority of the teachers and local schools and led to the era of “teacher bashing” which is still going on. 

13. Harmful educational practices. Vallas flunked over 50,000 Chicago students. Research shows that retention leads to greater academic failure, higher levels of dropping out, greater behavioral difficulties, poor attendance, negative attitudes toward school and feelings of shame and depression.

14. Discrimination. Vallas discriminated against African Americans and Hispanics. His testing and retention policy had “a negative disparate impact on minority students,” according the U.S. Dept. of Education Office of Civil Rights.

15. Sacrifice of low scoring students to show rise in test scores. Vallas removed students from elementary and high school because of low test scores and warehoused them in separate and unequal “academic preparatory centers” (known from ’96 to ’99 as “transition centers”). One study showed that Chicago high schools had 10,000 fewer students by 2000 than would have happened had the retention policies not created a generation of junior high dropouts. Chicago now has children dropping out of school between 6th, 7th and 8th grade because of the Vallas policies. 

16. The scapegoating of educators and the increase in what became known as “teacher bashing.” Vallas blamed teachers and principals in (non-magnet, non-wealthy, racially segregated) neighborhood schools for their “below average” student test scores. These schools were then placed on “probation,” “reconstitution,” “intervention” and “re-engineering.” Vallas’ appointees removed six principals and 188 teachers from their schools in 1997 under “reconstitution.” Vallas removed five more principals under “intervention” in 2000. Other principals and other administrators with long and distinguished careers of service to Chicago’s children were driven into early retirement by Vallas’s personal attacks on them. Vallas punished teachers and principals who chose to work with the neediest and lowest scoring children.

Vallas’s shameful record includes countless stories of his harm to individuals and schools

17. Inequitable focus of academic programs. Vallas’s threats against the staff at schools in danger of (or on) probation, reconstitution, intervention and reengineering resulted in test-prep curriculums. In those schools, academics and extracurricular subjects other than Iowa and TAP test-like reading and math suffered neglect and cuts. Wealthy neighborhood schools and magnet schools with selective enrollment (schools that could never be put on probation because all of the students had above average test scores) were free to focus on an enriched curriculum and many choices of extracurricular activities. 

18. High school redesign. Vallas created “High School Redesign.” The program attacked everything in the general high schools without noting that the general high schools took the children whose academic problems had begun during nine years of elementary school. Redesign particularly attacked fine arts, vocational education and physical education programs. Its propagandists claimed that the high schools were the source of educational failure in Chicago.

19. New abuses of power for principals and appointed bureaucrats. Vallas gave principals and his appointees the ability to discharge teachers they didn’t like and get around seniority by supposedly changing the focus of schools through designations of “career academies,” “academic magnet schools” or “military academies.”

20. Callous behavior regarding tragedy. Vallas refused to acknowledge the widow of Farragut High School English teacher, Joe Hillebrand, after Hillebrand’s tragic suicide in July 1999. Hillebrand killed himself because his principal, Edward Guerra, had told him that he was removing Hillebrand from Farragut. Even though Hillebrand was a dedicated, superior-rated teacher with 19 years of seniority, Guerra had the power not to keep him on because Vallas gave the school the designation of “career academy.” Hillebrand had left a note for his wife that said, “I cannot explain to you the intensity of my torture. My career is over. There is no way out.” Mrs. Hillebrand received no call or card from Vallas, who was aware of the suicide and quoted in the Chicago Tribune regarding Hillebrand’s death.

21. “Honorable discharge” of more than 200 tenured teachers. By 1999, Vallas was firing veteran tenured teachers despite a growing teacher shortage. These teachers were not fired for cause, but because the Vallas administration worked to make sure that principals would not hire them after they had been displaced from their previous schools. “Teacher bashing” became a growing national scandal by the late 1990s, and was pioneered in Chicago by Paul Vallas. 

22. Destruction and reduction of vocational and business programs. Vallas cut over one half of the vocational and business education programs in the high schools. Two schools were sacrificed to create academic elite schools. Other vocational education programs were slashed in order to give the work done by vocational teachers to private nonunion contractors like De Vry Institute.

23. The decimation of Jones Commercial and Near North high schools. Vallas wiped out two schools that focused on teaching job skills to average students, creating two elite high schools in their place. Part of Vallas’s plan in changing Jones to an academic magnet school was to create a need to expand the school building and force the Pacific Garden Mission to move out of its South Loop location. The school closings are devastating to students who want a business or vocational education and to the many teachers who lost their positions. Vallas refused to acknowledge the strength of the job internship program at Jones Metropolitan High School (which had partnered with over 500 Chicago businesses). Vallas said to this reporter, “Those jobs at Jones don’t amount to anything.” Vallas also claimed that “Nobody wants to send their kid to Near North.” There were 700 applicants for the freshman class that year.

24. Callous behavior toward teacher job losses. Vallas lied to teachers at Taft High School, saying that only three teachers had lost their positions at Jones (when there had been 19 who had been let go). Vallas slandered those teachers by snidely telling the Taft faculty that the Jones teachers who were not hired back to the new “academic magnet school” were lousy teachers.

25. Shooting off his mouth. Vallas tended to shoot off his mouth before he knew the facts of any particular case. Throughout the Vallas administration, a standing joke was that Vallas’s orders were “Fire. Ready. Aim.” One example turned the entire student travel program upside down when Vallas threatened to fire a Morgan Park High School teacher because a student who had lost his passport was left behind — in competent adult hands — after a field trip to Spain ended. After Vallas was chastised for threatening to fire the popular and politically connected teacher he again reacted impulsively and angrily, saying on a radio show that an unrelated Austrian trip (for Morgan Park 7th and 8th graders) would be canceled due to safety concerns. After an Austrian diplomat assured Vallas that there would be no problem, Vallas still cancelled the trip based on a paper work technicality. Many students were crushed.

26. Employee Discipline Code. Vallas instituted a “discipline code” for board employees that gave the board the power to suspend, without pay, teachers and other employees for the most trivial reasons. Vallas and other administrators used the code to suppress dissent and to harass veteran teachers who didn’t follow the whims of principals to the letter. 

27. Arbitrarily reversing LSC principal selections, charging LSC’s “in crisis” to centralize control. Vallas, his underlings, and his numerous investigators spent years undermining local school councils which tried to act independently of Vallas’s central control. 

28. Vendettas in print. Vallas supplied former Sun-Times columnist Ray Coffey — and at times other media personalities — with official “truths” and “facts” in order to smear the reputation of teachers and LSC chosen principal candidates who opposed him. Among Vallas’s most outrageous charges published by the Sun-Times were that Substance editor George N. Schmidt was racist and that the Gale School LSC–chosen principal, Beverly Martin, was anything less than qualified on her own merits. Dozens of other teachers and principals faced similar slanders, all of which originated from Vallas and his appointees.

29. Vendettas through court. Vallas spent nearly $1 million to take Martin and Schmidt out of the principal position and teaching position they rightfully deserved. Millions of dollars more were spent on cases involving other teachers and principals, dozens of whom ultimately defeated the board at great cost in time and dollars.

30. Disinformation campaign at board, including censoring monthly board meetings for television. Vallas has refused to publish even the most routine information about the school system (such as the annual directory of administrative offices, which was published for more than 50 years). Vallas censored the broadcast version of Board of Education meetings in order to cut out the words of anyone critical of his claims. 

31. Desegregation efforts reversed. Vallas increased racial segregation in Chicago’s schools for the first time in more than 30 years. Illegal segregation of both staff and students has increased markedly since 1995. 

32. Abuse of parents and school reform groups. Vallas attacked and publicly ridiculed veteran school reform organizations such as Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE) and Designs for Change, while working to subordinate every critical voice or silence it through the most dictatorial methods. 

33. The destruction of five high schools through “Intervention.” After the failure of the 1997 “reconstitution” of seven high schools, Vallas returned in the summer of 2000 for an expensive encore, the “Intervention” program aimed at five high schools. Like “reconstitution,” Intervention failed after driving large numbers of veteran teachers from the schools and undermining the work of staffs that had dedicated their lives in many cases to the most difficult communities in the inner city. 

34. Ridiculous CASE tests. Vallas spent more than $5 million over four years on some of the nation’s most ludicrous “standardized” tests, the “Chicago Academic Standards Examinations” (CASE). The CASE program, like most of Chicago’s testing program, is a burden on the schools and takes away from learning and teaching. Vallas’s multi-million dollar lawsuit against Substance for publishing six of the January 1999 pilot CASE tests has already cost the taxpayers more than $300,000 for attorneys’ fees and legal costs and promises to cost twice as much as the Board of Education drags the litigation through both federal and state courts.

35. More, and more, and more… The most amazing thing of all is that this list could continue. The destruction of Chicago’s public schools by the Vallas administration will take a decade or more to repair, once the damage is honestly acknowledged and the repairs begun."

"The Paul Vallas I Know by Grady Jordan" The overwhelming percentage of school principals removed from their schools by Paul Vallas have been black.

"Vallas Failed to Raise Chicago Test Scores on the Test Most Illinois Students Take by Sharon Schmidt." Vallas turned many Chicago schools into test-drilling mills with real teaching and learning out the window.

"No-Bid Contracts to Arthur Andersen and Other Insiders Increase by More than 400% under Vallas by Tom Sharp" Arthur Andersen has had contracts from the school system exceeding $10 million.

"Lies in the Vallas Vitae by Sharon Schmidt" Paul Vallas continues to make dubious claims that he was an elementary school teacher from 1976-1980.

"Roland Burris Interview by George Schmidt" Burris discusses his extensive government service and his educational plans.

"Rod Blagojevich Debunks Vallas Claims by Sharon Schmidt." Blagojevich outlines his own education plan, which de-emphasizes testing and focuses on early childhood education and increased funding for schools.

"Chicago Tribune Endorses Vallas While They Sue School System to Obtain Data that Vallas Illegally Withheld by George Schmidt" While endorsing Vallas for Governor, the Tribune sues the school system to give up data about truant students that was illegally withheld by Vallas.

"Editorial: Vallas Endorsements a Set-Up? by George Schmidt" The Chicago Tribune and Crain's Chicago Business endorsed Paul Vallas because he is the most vulnerable candidate against a fall Republican opponent.

"Vallas's Claims about Providing Eyeglasses for Poor Children Brazenly Rewrite History by Sharon Schmidt" The school system and various charities have long tested students' vision and provided free glasses. Vallas actually cut the staff available to test the vision and hearing of Chicago's children.

"Costly Move Downtown Called Into Question by Recent Renovations at Pershing Road by Tom Sharp" Vallas called the school system's Pershing Road a "commercial sinkhole", but city departments are now making renovations and repopulating the Pershing Road building. Was Vallas's costly move downtown really necessary?

"Board Delays CASE Case Until After Primary Election by George Schmidt" Substance published six of 22 systemwide high school achievement tests (in subjects like English and history) to show what an absurd waste of time and money they were. In response, on Vallas's urging, the Chicago board fired Substance's editor (teacher George Schmidt) and sued Substance for $1 million. But now, the Board's attorneys are using every delaying tactic in the book to keep the case from coming to trial.

"The Legacy of Vallas' Financial Manipulations: Feast or Famine? by Leo Gorenstein" Vallas claimed that he left the school system with a $345 million "surplus." Why then did the Chicago board take the unusual step of shifting $49 million from the funds meant for educating children to pay its debt on bonds?