Archives for category: Vallas, Paul



Friday March 31, 2023

Contact: Cassie Creswell, Illinois Families for Public Schools, 773-916-7794



CHICAGO — Mayoral candidate Paul Vallas is falsely denying his connections to former President Trump’s former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and an Illinois Super PAC that DeVos funds.

DeVos funds and controls the Illinois Federation for Children PAC which made a $59,000 independent expenditure in support of Vallas’ campaign last week. On the same day, DeVos’ American Federation for Children Action Fund, a national 527 PAC funded primarily by DeVos and her husband, made a $65,000 contribution to the Illinois Federation for Children PAC.

Yesterday evening at the Sun-Times-WBEZ mayoral debate, Vallas denied having contact with DeVos, stating “I’ve never had any conversations or contact with Betsy DeVos. And our campaign has not received any money from her.” 

The Vallas campaign said on Wednesday evening that “our campaign has not been in contact with this organization [Illinois Federation for Children PAC].”

In reality, Vallas and DeVos served together as hosts at an Urban League of Chicago event on September, 9 2021 in honor of the superintendent of schools of the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago.

Moreover, the chair of the Illinois Federation for Children PAC Nathan Hoffman has been regularly attending Vallas campaign events in the last month, including Vallas’ February 28th election night party:

Hoffman was a registered contract lobbyist in Springfield for the DeVos-founded and funded 501c4 American Federation for Children until January 2023. 

On June 18, 2022, Vallas appeared on a panel hosted by extremist anti-LGBTQ+ group Awake Illinois with keynote speaker Corey DeAngelis, senior fellow at DeVos-founded and funded American Federation for Children.

Paul Vallas’ decades-long history of privatizing multiple school districts in the US and extensive support for transferring public funds to private schools are tightly aligned with DeVos’ ideological opposition to the existence of publicly-run, publicly-funded schools.


The Illinois charter lobby has spent heavily in the Chicago mayoral race. In recent weeks, the charter lobby has run a barrage of ads attacking Brandon Johnson, the City Commissioner who is running against Vallas.

WTTW News reported:

A statewide advocacy organization designed to promote charter schools spent $617,000 to oppose Brandon Johnson’s campaign for mayor of Chicago, records filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections show.

The independent expenditure by the INCS Action Independent Committee, funded by the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, paid for $258,000 in cable television advertisements on March 16 and $359,000 in digital advertising on March 15, records show. Election Day is April 4, and early voting is underway.

Before the first round of voting took place, the INCS Action Independent Committee spent an additional $63,000 to oppose Johnson’s campaign. In addition to their spending on the mayoral race, the committee has spent at least $107,000 to support City Council candidates in runoff elections, according to records.

Vallas has a well-established record as a passionate advocate of privatization. He supports both charter schools and vouchers.

Vallas wiped out public schools in New Orleans. He launched a massive privatization program in Philadelphia, and he left the district with a deficit.

We know that Mayoral candidate Paul Vallas is getting money from Betsy DeVos. Vallas is also getting even larger contributions from hedge fund financiers because Vallas has promised not to raise taxes on them. His opponent Brandon Johnson wants to tax the highest earners to pay for improved education, mental health, and social services.

Matthew Cunningham-Cook reports in The Lever:

In the final stretch of Chicago’s closely watched mayoral race, candidate Paul Vallas is attacking his progressive opponent’s plan to fund public schools and infrastructure by taxing the wealthy — including a tax on financial trading that would hit some of Vallas’ top campaign donors.

The revenue plan proposed by Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson includes what he calls a “Big Banks Securities and Speculation Tax,” which would levy a $1 or $2 charge on most trades. Johnson’s campaign estimates this financial transaction tax could raise as much as $100 million annually for the city.

Vallas opposed Johnson’s tax plan during a debate last week, arguing that raising taxes “is the absolute wrong approach to take,” and that Chicago’s next mayor should instead focus on reducing spending.

Johnson’s tax proposal would hit financial firms that profit from speculative trades, often conducted at the millisecond level. Executives at six such firms have contributed $1.6 million to Vallas’ bid, according to a Lever review of campaign finance records. That’s nearly 10 percent of Vallas’ total mayoral fundraising haul.

Among the firms that profit from speculative trading is the hedge fund giant Citadel, whose financial dealings were swept up in the 2021 Gamestop controversy. Citadel’s billionaire founder and CEO Ken Griffin, Jr. has been a major funder of right-wing politicians like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Earlier this month, Griffin endorsed Vallas, telling Bloomberg News, “I really admire my colleagues who have supported Paul Vallas publicly with their voice and with their money.”

Johnson’s financial transaction tax plan mirrors those proposed by progressives at the state and federal levels. Griffin is on record opposing the idea, claiming during a 2021 congressional hearing that a national financial transaction tax would “injure Americans hoping to save for retirement.”

Ten Citadel executives have contributed a total of $762,000 to Vallas, a former Chicago Public Schools chief who helped Wall Street firms extract more than $1 billion in additional interest payments from the school district during his tenure, as The Lever reported last week.

Johnson is a former social studies teacherendorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union, which has denounced Griffin’s past interventions in local politics and support for mass school closings.

Vallas has additionally received donations from executives at Calamos Investments, the Chicago Trading Company, Cognitive Capital, Consolidated Trading, and DRW — firms that also profit from speculative trades.

Some of the largest U.S. financial exchanges are based in Chicago, including the Chicago Board Options Exchange and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

Critics of the proposed financial transaction tax say that it could drive some financial firms out of Chicago. Given the robustconnections between financialization and inequality, and the relatively small number of good jobs created by the financial sector, it’s unclear whether the departure of the industry would be a net negative for the city.

On the other hand, the passage of a financial transaction tax in Chicago or in Illinois could buttress efforts to pass such policies in New York — which had a stock transfer tax for most of the 20th century — and New Jersey.

“Enough of Illinois”

The bestselling 2014 book Flash Boys, authored by Michael Lewis, chronicles the world of high-frequency traders, who make enormous sums of money by running trades at the millisecond level, exploiting minor differences in prices to collect huge profits.

Citadel and its affiliated market making firm, Citadel Securities, have long been players in this arena. A 2013 CNN report showed Citadel employees executing 21 million trades in less than three minutes.

In January, Citadel was fined $10 million by South Korean regulators for violating the country’s securities laws while using its proprietary high-frequency trading algorithm.

Griffin moved Citadel from Chicago to Miami in 2021, telling Bloomberg this month that he’d “had enough of Illinois.” But the firm still maintains a significant presence in the city, and as an active high-frequency trader, the financial transaction tax championed by Johnson could cost Citadel enormously.

On January 23, when Johnson announced his financial transaction tax proposal, polls had begun to show a likely runoff between Johnson and Vallas in a then-crowded field of candidates. In Chicago’s municipal elections, if no candidate garners a majority in the first round of voting, the top two advance to a runoff.

That same day, Citadel executive Gerald Beeson contributed $100,000 to Vallas’ campaign, records show. Two days later, another Citadel executive gave $75,000. After Johnson and Vallas proceeded to a runoff, the cash pump was unleashed, with executives at companies connected to aggressive trading donating another $1 million to Vallas.

“Brandon Johnson wants to improve services like mental health and youth jobs programs by taxing speculative financial trading,” said Saqib Bhatti, co-executive director of the Action Center on Race and the Economy, which backs the transaction tax. “It doesn’t surprise me that executives at firms that specialize in this risky trading would pour money into his opponent’s campaign.”

A Citadel spokesperson told The Lever, “We moved our HQ from Chicago to Miami last year, and with it the bulk of our investment professionals and trading activity takes place outside of Illinois.”

Citadel did not answer questions about the number of employees the firm maintains in Chicago, nor the estimated impact of Johnson’s proposed financial transaction tax on its business. In city election records, all but one of the donations to Vallas from Citadel executives list addresses in Illinois.

The Vallas campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Protecting Retirees

Griffin, Citadel’s CEO, opposed the idea of a financial transaction tax in a 2021 congressional hearing on the video game retailer Gamestop and other “meme stocks.” Citadel was accused by retail investors of ordering stock trading firm Robinhood to stop executing trades in Gamestop as the stock was rising, threatening Citadel’s short positions.

In the hearing, held over Zoom, progressive Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) asked Griffin whether his firm’s trading algorithm is programmed to trade ahead of transactions by pension and retirement funds — and whether that increases costs for such funds.

Griffin replied that his firm has “generated exceptional returns for pension plans and for endowments.”

Tlaib noted that as a result of high frequency trading, ordinary investors end up effectively paying a $5 billion tax each year.

“This means that Wall Street firms like yours engaging in high frequency trades are actually making money at the expense of my residents’ retirement funds,” she said, before asking whether Citadel opposed a federal financial transaction tax.

“We firmly believe that a transaction tax will injure Americans hoping to save for retirement,” said Griffin.

Citadel has also been a member of the Coalition to Prevent the Taxing of Retirement Savings, a collection of stock exchanges and trading platforms that banded together in 2020 to defeat a proposed financial transaction tax in New Jersey.

The coalition opposed the idea nationally in 2021 when it was being floated by the Biden administration, telling CNN, “This approach has a long history of unintended consequences that will penalize workers, pensioners, and American families.”

Griffin has a history of spending big to oppose increases on his taxes: In 2020, he spent nearly $54 million to help defeat a constitutional amendment that would have allowed the state of Illinois to establish a progressive income tax, akin to income taxes on the federal level. Last year, ProPublicaestimated that Griffin’s gamble could save him $51 million in taxes annually.

In the 2022 election cycle, Griffin spent nearly $75 million backing federal Republican candidates and committees, according to a Lever review of campaign finance data.

In the same March interview where Griffin praised Vallas, Griffin also endorsed a 2024 presidential run by DeSantis, saying, “I would love to see him run.” Griffin has donated nearly $11 million to DeSantis’ political committee, according to Florida records.

Current polls show a tight race between Vallas and Johnson. Chicago’s runoff election will take place April 4.

Was this email forwarded to you? Sign up for free to receive original reporting like this in your inbox every day.The Lever © 2023 – Unsubscribe


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Wednesday March 29, 2023

Contact: Cassie Creswell, Illinois Families for Public Schools,773-916-7794



CHICAGO – Last week ex-President Trump’s former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made a $59,000 independent expenditure in support of mayoral candidate Paul Vallas’ campaign from a Super PAC she funds, the Illinois Federation for Children PAC.

The Illinois Federation for Children PAC was established in March 2022 and has received $465,000 in total from DeVos’ American Federation for Children Action Fund, a national 527 PAC. The Illinois Federation PAC’s chair, Nathan Hoffman, was a registered contract lobbyist in Springfield for the American Federation for Children until January this year.

Although DeVos has not endorsed Vallas, Vallas’ education plans for Chicago’s school system are directly aligned with DeVos agenda of school privatization, one she supported as Secretary of Education and promotes through her national network of advocacy organizations and PACs: defunding and dismantling public school systems and redirecting public funds via programs like vouchers for private schools.

In a little-noticed February 2022 op-ed in the Chicago Tribune, Vallas laid out a radical plan for privatizing Chicago Public Schools (CPS). In addition to supporting Illinois’ existing Invest in Kids tax credit scholarship voucher program, which already diverts millions to pay for vouchers for more than 4000 Chicago children, Vallas would create a city-funded voucher program and pay for it with funds from the CPS operating budget earmarked for teacher pensions. The pension payments would then instead be covered by surplus Tax Increment Financing dollars.

In that same op-ed, Vallas also proposes allowing religious private schools to become district-funded charter (or “contract”) schools, a policy so extreme that it was recently rejected by the conservative Republican attorney general of Oklahoma as “state-funded religion.”

Vallas also voices his support for “a reconstituted system in which parents get to direct the per-pupil public dollars to the school (or education model) of their choosing.” More recently, Vallas told WBEZ that “money should follow the students” and “we should be running districts of schools, not school districts.” The education platform on Vallas’ website calls for “dismantling the central administration” of CPS. These are exactly the policies that DeVos and American Federation for Children are advocating: funding students not systems and that dollars must follow students.
In June 2022, Vallas appeared on a panel with keynote speaker Corey DeAngelis, senior fellow at American Federation for Children. The panel, organized by extremist anti-LGBTQ+ parent group, Awake Illinois. Vallas later denounced Awake Illinois, but did not dissociate himself from DeAngelis or American Federation for Children.

Secretary DeVos’ education agenda was harmful to public schools on a national scale. Chicago voters should know that DeVos supports Vallas’ candidacy and that there is no daylight between DeVos and Vallas’ education policies.


Big news!

Today state control of the schools officially ends.

A concerted effort by parents and citizens of Philadelphia ended the city’s long and disastrous trial of state control. Paul Vallas, the Edison Project, charters, a steady stream of efforts to privatize the schools and hand control over to someone else. Meanwhile, the public schools were stripped bare, to the bone.

The state-controlled School Reform Commission voted to disband itself after 16 years of running the public schools into the ground. The city now reverts to mayoral control, and the parent groups won’t rest until the city has an elected board.

Congratulations, Philadelphia!

Time to return democracy to the cradle of our democracy.

From the Alliance on November 2:

“Members of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools celebrate the impending dissolution of the School Reform Commission. We thank Mayor Kenney and Council President Clarke for their leadership in bringing this state-imposed body to an end. State control of our schools has brought devastation to this city: precious funds have been diverted to non-public schools and over 30 neighborhood have seen their schools closed permanently.

“Since 2012, APPS members have attended every session of the SRC, including special meetings and Policy Committee meetings. We have spent those five years fighting and organizing against the reckless spending, lack of transparency and disregard for the public exhibited by the many iterations of the SRC. In 2014, APPS sued then-Chair Bill Green and the SRC in federal court for violating the public’s First Amendment rights when Green ordered the police to confiscate signs from members of the public—and won. The following year, we filed suit in Commonwealth Court to stop the SRC’s continual violations of the PA Sunshine Act. Our settlement resulted in significant changes in SRC policy, including posting the resolutions to be voted on two weeks before the meeting instead of only 72 hours, and allowing the public to speak on resolutions posted just before or during the meeting.

“We now have a unique opportunity to end the disenfranchisement of the people of Philadelphia. The stakeholders in our public school system—that is, every person who benefits from a thriving public school system—should have the same rights as those in every other district in the commonwealth to elect the officials who will be entrusted to represent them in matters of school governance.

“The dissolution of the SRC is not contingent on changing the City Charter. The Charter now provides for mayoral control, as it did before SRC. The Mayor can select an interim school board for a year, during which time the city should hold community forums, as it is presently doing for the Rebuild initiative, to hear from the people whose voices were shut out during the reign of the SRC about how best to create a truly representative body for the critical task of educating our children.

“Trading in one unelected, unaccountable board for another is not a progressive solution to the problems facing the district.”

Superstar principal Troy La Raviere in Chicago steps back to assess the deadlock between the mayor and the Chicago Teachers Union.


He recalls a recent conversation with Paul Vallas. He writes:


“I’m not an admirer of his education policy, but Vallas was the last Chicago Public Schools CEO to leave the district with a structurally balanced long-term budget. He also left CPS with a fully funded pension system, and over $1 billion in reserves. When Vallas returned to Chicago this past August, I was fortunate enough to have an hour-long conversation with him a few days before we both participated in a panel at the City Club of Chicago. During our conversation—and during the panel—Vallas outlined the financial rules that kept CPS budgets balanced during his tenure. Those practices included the following:


“He did not add programs without identifying additional revenue to pay for them.

“He did not borrow for operational expenses.

“He did not spend on new schools when there was declining enrollment. Building new schools should be based on demographics, not school reform ideology.

“He did not redirect funding for pension payments toward other spending projects.

“After Vallas’ departure, the mayor’s appointees to CPS lost all fiscal discipline and consistently violated every one of these sound budgeting practices. As a result of their mismanagement, CPS now claims they need “shared sacrifice” from teachers. Teachers union officials don’t seem to have the kind of consistent and concise messaging the Mayor’s office has, so the average news consumer may not notice that within CTU’s response are the keys to solving CPS’ fiscal crisis. I will take the liberty of fine-tuning CTU’s message and speaking as the Chicago public school teacher and union member I once was, before becoming an administrator nearly a decade ago.”


LaRaviere then describes what is necessary to fix the budget. And he identifies who must share in sacrificing to put the system in a sound financial footing.


Yesterday, the ex-CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, pleaded guilty to a kickback scheme involving SUPES Academy. She is facing serious jail time. The owners of SUPES Academy, who made an agreement to pay BBB, have yet to be judged. Mayor Rahm Emanuel would like to pin the guilt squarely on BBB, but the Chicago Tribune revealed yesterday that the owner of SUPES is an ally of Emanuel and recommended first J.C. Blizzard as CEO, then BBB.

Jonathan Pelto, master blogger of Connecticut, sees connections that go beyond what we know so far. He sees Paul Vallas as a player in the Chicago drama. If you like to read truth-is-stranger-than-fiction stories, read his post.

Pelto writes:

Charges were also filed against The SUPES Academy LLC and Synesi Associates LLC, as well as against the owners of those two companies, Gary Solomon and Thomas Vranas. According to the indictment, their role in the kick-back scheme includes charges of bribery and conspiracy to defraud the United States.

A third company owned by the two individuals, PROACT Search, a superintendent search firm that provided New Haven with Superintendent Garth Harris and Norwalk with Superintendent Steven Adamowski has also been caught up in the FBI’s investigation into the Chicago scandal….

Prior to being hand-picked by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to run Chicago’s Public Schools, Byrd-Bennett worked as a consultant and lead teacher for The Supes Academy, worked as a consultant for Synesi Associates and was listed as a part of the management team at PROACT Search.

While many key actors in the Corporate Education Reform Industry have been involved with Gary Solomon and his companies, one of the most prominent names on Solomon’s list of close colleagues is the Great Paul Vallas, the Education Reform Guru and former CEO of the Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans public school systems.

More recently, Democratic Governor and education reform disciple Dannel Malloy brought Vallas to Bridgeport, Connecticut and then twisted Connecticut law in knots so that Vallas could stay for two years until local residents had finally had enough and forced Vallas to leave the job and return to Illinois.

As for the situation in Chicago, it could certainly be said that Gary Solomon’s ability to build such a “successful” corporate education reform company is due, in no small part, to his close relationship with Paul Vallas.

Vallas not only hired Solomon and his companies when he worked in Philadelphia, but brought Solomon with him to New Orleans.

And Vallas worked to bring other business to Solomon and his companies as well.

While Vallas has publicly claimed that he has no financial interest in any of Solomon’s consulting activities, in Vallas’ Philadelphia days Solomon’s consulting company advertised that it had “the exclusive rights to Paul Vallas’ model of education reform….”

The story gets weirder and weirder, as Vallas and Solomon play tag team:

When Paul Vallas moved on to New Orleans to head the Louisiana Recovery School District, Solomon picked up even more lucrative contracts.

But it is a story out of Illinois that provides a true snap-shot and insider’s view into how Vallas and the Corporate Education Reform Industry works;

While Gary Solomon and his companies profited greatly via Vallas in Philadelphia and New Orleans, it is the somewhat more hidden story surrounding the Rockford School District (PSD 150) in Illinois the provides telling evidence about how Vallas and the Corporate Education Reform Industry works.

More consulting contracts. Follow the story. Pelto is an amazing investigative reporter.

Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois surprised many people by choosing Paul Vallas as his running mate for re-election.

Vallas once headed the Chicago schools. He headed the Philadelphia schools, where he launched a major experiment in privatization, which was widely judged a failure. He left Philadelphia with a large deficit. He then was selected to take over the New Orleans district after Hurricane Katrina. Public education was almost wiped out, along with the teachers’ union. Vallas took credit for installing the largest privately managed charter system in the nation. After a brief stint in Haiti, Vallas landed in Bridgeport, where he had a rocky relationship with the local community. He left before getting a judgement on whether he held the proper qualifications to be superintendent of the Bridgeport schools, since he lacked Connecticut-required credentials.

Given this background, read what Governor Quinn said in an interview:

“Q: Paul Vallas supports charter schools. Since you picked him as a lieutenant governor, does that mean you’re open to charter expansion?

“A: No, Paul Vallas believes in public education. So do I. We believe in funding public education. A very, very important issue this year, we’ll be talking about that soon. … He’s committed to a fair, open budget to properly fund education.”

One way to read this brief exchange is that Governor Quinn knows that the wind is blowing towards supporting public schools, not charter schools. It will be interesting to see what Vallas says.

Connecticut blogger Jonathan Pelto has breaking news that Bridgeport’s embattled superintendent of schools, Paul Vallas, is leaving Bridgeport to become Illinois Governor Quinn’s running mate.

Newsflash: Illinois Gov. Quinn taps Paul Vallas for running mate

“Gov. Pat Quinn apparently has made an unexpected choice for his running mate for lieutenant governor: Paul Vallas, the former Chicago Public Schools chief and an ex-candidate for governor himself.”

More at Jonathan Pelto’s Wait, What? website:

This is an article that appears in the newsletter of the Connecticut Association of School Administrators. I can’t give a link because it is part of a pdf. I am working on learning how to insert a pdf into the blog but have not mastered it yet. Give me time. The article was written by attorney John M. Gesmonde.   Gesmonde, a graduate of Columbia University and the University of Connecticut Law School, is the legal counsel for the Connecticut Association of School Administrators (CASA).


Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and Paul Vallas, Superintendent of Schools of the Bridgeport School District, have a lot in common (besides their goatees). Both received harsh performance evaluations in their most recent jobs; Vallas, as Budget Director of the City of Chicago, and Pryor as the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development in the City of Newark. On the bright side, neither position had much to do with education; then again, how did these individuals manage to get appointed to the highest and second highest positions in education in Connecticut? Neither has any experience running a classroom1, never mind a school district or the credentials for being the top educational leader of the State of Connecticut.

Neither of these likeable gentlemen have even so much as a certification to be a classroom teacher, not mention a superintendent of schools or commissioner of education. Their educational “achievement gap” could not be any greater relative to the positions they hold, and a lot of important people must have had to “turnaround” to miss that these two emperors of education had no clothes on, and still don’t.

Mr. Vallas was appointed by a Bridgeport Board of Education that, despite support from Governor Malloy and his chief legal counsel, Andrew MacDonald, the Supreme Court of Connecticut held had been taken over illegally by appointees of the state board of education.

Malloy and McDonald then tried to nullify that Supreme Court decision by slipping language into a bill, ironically, proffered to correct supposed educational faults or evils.

According to the Hartford Courant, “the Malloy administration’s proposed legal fix for the Bridgeport takeover amounts to two sentences inserted half way through a 163-page package of education reforms. It targets the situation in Bridgeport particularly by validating any board takeover after July 1, 2010, regardless of whether there was training (of the board members) or not.” Well, eventually a new Board was seated lawfully and not too long after that another lawsuit was commenced to remove Mr. Vallas once and for all due to his lack of superintendent certification and, amazingly, for his failure to fulfill the mini requirements for an exemption from that certification. Vallas was once again supported by the Governor, the Bridgeport Mayor, Bill Finch, and his long-time friend, Commissioner Pryor, who personally testified in court on Vallas’ behalf. Judge Bellis heard the case in Superior Court and rendered a decision deposing Vallas for lack of certification, lack of exemption in lieu thereof, and because he overstayed the statutory welcome mat for acting superintendents.

Vallas has appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of Connecticut, which has already lifted the order that Vallas be immediately removed from his office, allowing Vallas, the “acting” superintendent, to stay put until the Supreme Court hears the case in chief on September 23, 2013.

Meanwhile, Governor Malloy’s chief counsel, Andrew McDonald, who unsuccessfully tried to thwart the Supreme Court’s previous decision reversing the illegitimate state usurpation of the Bridgeport Board of Education, was rewarded by Governor Malloy with an appointment to the Supreme Court . . . small world.

Vallas was invited by his friend and colleague, Stefan Pryor, the newly appointed Commissioner of Education, to Connecticut in December of 2011 to appraise the City of Bridgeport Public School System.2

At that time, §10-157 of the Connecticut General Statutes set forth in pertinent part the following:

 a)     . . . (N)o person shall assume the duties and responsibilities of the superintendent until the Board receives written confirmation from the Commissioner of Education that the person to be employed is properly certified or has had such certification waived by the commissioner pursuant to subsection (c) of this section. . . .

b)     A local or regional board of education may appoint as acting superintendent a person who is or is not properly certified for a specified period of time, not to exceed ninety days, with the approval of the Commissioner of Education… provided such period of time may be extended with the approval of the commissioner, which he shall grant for good cause shown.

c)     The Commissioner may, upon request of an employing local or regional board of education, grant a waiver of certification to a person (1) who has successfully completed at least three years of experience as a certified administrator with a superintendent certificate issued by another state in a public school in another state during the ten-year period prior to the date of application, or (2) who the Commissioner deems to be exceptionally qualified for the position of superintendent. In order for the Commissioner to find a person exceptionally qualified, such person shall (A) be an acting superintendent pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, (B)have worked as a superintendent in another state for no fewer than fifteen years, and (C) be certified or have been certified as a superintendent by such other state.”

Vallas had never taken any graduate courses in education and was not certified as a superintendent in Connecticut. No problem, Pryor simply introduced Vallas to the then Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education who dutifully “turn(ed) around” and formally requested of Pryor that Vallas be appointed as acting superintendent for 90 days commencing January 1, 2012. That letter was immediately followed by a second letter requesting an extension of that appointment for another 9 months from April 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012.3

The most Pryor could have extended the probationary period without violating §10-157 of the Connecticut General Statutes was for another ninety (90) days. Both written requests were contemporaneously approved by Pryor on December 23, 2011, effectively giving Vallas not only an illegal one (1) year appointment, but instant just cause for the extension of the initial term before he had even started it.  So much for the highest educational official in the state implementing the educational interests of the state. 4

By some remarkable coincidence, while Vallas was still acting as a superintendent, subsections (b) and (c) of §10-157 of the Connecticut General Statutes became significantly amended, effective July 1, 2012, by Public Act 12-116:

(b) A local or regional board of education may appoint as acting superintendent a person who is or is not properly certified for a probationary period, not to exceed one school year, with the approval of the Commissioner of Education. During such probationary period such acting superintendent . . . shall successfully complete the school leadership program, approved by the state Board of Education, offered at a public or private institution of higher education in the state. At the conclusion of the probationary period, such appointing local or regional board of education may request the Commissioner to grant a waiver of certification for such acting superintendent pursuant to subsection (c) of this section.

(c) The commissioner may, upon request by an employing local or regional board of education, grant a waiver of certification to a person (1) . . . or (2) who has successfully completed a probationary period as an acting superintendent pursuant to subsection (b) of this section, and who the Commissioner deems to be exceptionally qualified for the position of superintendent. (Note deletion of the last sentence from prior subsection (c) explicating “exceptionally qualified.”)

Pryor then approved the “piggy-back” appointment of Vallas as acting superintendent for the probationary period of January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2013 by letter dated January 23, 2013, even though, in effect, it gave Vallas an unprecedented and arguably illegal two (2) year trial period. 5

Soon afterward, Vallas contacted Dr. Robert Villanova, Director of the “Executive Leadership Program” at the University of Connecticut Neag School of Education in an effort to fulfill the statutory pre-requisite of passing a school leadership program so Pryor could give him a waiver of certification.

Unfortunately, Vallas could not qualify for the program because it had a fifteen (15) graduate credit course eligibility requirement. So, Villanova and Vallas concocted a three credit independent study course in district leadership for Vallas, which Villanova claimed, not credibly as far as the court was concerned, was necessary because the “Executive Leadership Program” was not appropriate for Vallas given Vallas’ extensive experience and time limitations. He made no mention to the court, however, of the fact that Vallas did not qualify to participate in the “Executive Leadership Program.”

Villanova testified that he had never been approached before to provide an independent study like the one worked out for Vallas. As it turned out, the actual course amounted to “Vallas and Villanova meet(ing) briefly in passing on one occasion, two meetings of about two hours long, and ( ) several telephone conversations.”

The Court found as a fact that Vallas never attended a class or in-person seminar, nor did he participate in any technology assisted discussions. The Court “explicitly” rejected the testimony of Villanova that their meetings or phone calls constituted the seminar and class sessions contemplated in the course description, and further rejected as not credible Villanova’s testimony that his telephone calls to Vallas constituted the technology assisted discussions’ as referenced in the course description.”6

“Vallas submitted six papers to complete the course . . . in rapid succession. . . .  Villanova informed Vallas within 24 hours of each submission that his papers met or exceeded expectations. Vallas submitted his last paper by email on May 30, 2013, at approximately 12:30 p.m., and Villanova submitted a final “A” grade for Vallas that same day.”7

Pryor then reported to the State Board of Education that “the UConn Neag School of Education developed an individualized, non-certification leadership program for Vallas. Based on Pryor’s representations, the State Board approved “the school leadership program offered by the University of Connecticut Neag School of Education.”8

Upon request by the Chairman of the Bridgeport Board of Education, Pryor then granted Vallas a waiver, having determined that he had completed his probationary period (two times, in fact) and an approved leadership program by the State Board of Education.

The Court was not pleased. It was apparent that the State Board of Education had been duped. The Court found that “the State Board of Education approved what they believed was a UConn approved program, with requirements of classes, seminars, and technology assisted discussions that simply did not take place. This independent study course was not an UConn approved program; and the course Vallas completed was not the program the State Board of Education approved.”9

In short, Vallas, Villanova of the UConn Neag School of Education, and Pryor, the Commissioner of Education, participated in a “sham” designed to circumvent the already watered down strictures of §10-157 (which, it may be recalled, was amended to remove the minimum criteria required for the commissioner to apply before granting to “would be” superintendents a waiver of certification) and the State Board of Education presumably, unwittingly fell for it.

Because Vallas did not complete a school leadership program, it was wrong for Pryor to have issued him a waiver of certification pursuant to §10-157(c); that is, Mr. Pryor’s waiver to accommodate Mr. Vallas was invalid, and the Court so held, and further “order(ed) that Paul Vallas be removed from his office.10

Déjà Vu All Over Again

On July 9, 1984, when newspapers were thicker and cost 25 cents, the New Haven Board of Education voted, upon recommendation of its superintendent, John Dow, Jr., to eliminate ten administrative positions, thereby jeopardizing the status and pay of ten school administrators. Upon further recommendation of John Dow, Jr., the New Haven Board of Education voted to commence dismissal proceedings against nine (9) other school administrators. Then, on September 21, 1984, John Dow, Jr. dropped a bombshell. He conceded that he was not certified as a superintendent when he was hired, or at any time thereafter, up to and through July 9, 1984 when the havoc he had wreaked against New Haven school administrators was approved by the board.

Judge Lester Aaronson granted the plaintiff administrators request for a permanent injunction enjoining the adverse employment actions of the superintendent.

Connecticut’s certification system is absolutely necessary to ensure that properly trained, qualified individuals serve in Connecticut’s school systems. This is especially so for superintendents who serve as the chief executive officer of the local board of education and who wield the executive authority over the school system. To have permitted Dr. Dow’s illegal employment relationship and his actions to stand would have rendered the state certification system a nullity.

Mr. Vallas also attempted to effectuate the demotion of administrators when he first became the superintendent in Bridgeport, but the illegality went deeper. It permeated the school district. The Board was illegally replaced by a state appointed board; a superintendent was hired by that Board in violation of the certification laws, which were sought to be amended twice for improper motives, once successfully, for the convenience of Mr. Vallas to serve, not as a certified superintendent, but as a superintendent exempted from the certification laws.

Unlike the New Haven situation, Mr. Vallas was facilitated by the commissioner of education and Mr. Robert Villanova, Director of the “Executive Leadership Program” at the University of Connecticut Neag School of Education and Tom DeFranco, the Dean of the University of Connecticut Neag School of Education.

Pryor and the University of Connecticut Neag School of Education are integrally involved in implementing educational reform in Connecticut, in part by bestowing waivers upon certain school districts from components of the Connecticut Guidelines for Educator Evaluation and Support and from the PEAC implementation plan.

Judge Bellis, who rendered the decision in Lopez v. Bridgeport Board of Education, was not fooled by the concerted efforts of those persons who sought to accomplish illegally that which could not be accomplished legally.

As the late Justice Felix Frankfurter stated, “And there comes a point when the courts should not be ignorant as judges of what we know as men.”11

(And, it may be added, “or women.”)

Teachers, administrators and supervisors could be, and have been, fired literally on the spot if their certificates were found to be lacking or lapsed. Because the definition of “teacher” covers only “certified” teachers, administrators and supervisors, no due process, including termination hearings, need be afforded to an employee without a proper certification before summarily terminating such individual. Termination hearings are only for teachers and administrators who are properly certified.

Even if the school administrator also had a certificate as a teacher, there would be no obligation on the part of the superintendent or the board of education to employ that individual as a teacher. That person has no greater standing than someone applying for a job as a teacher in the first instance, and the board would be free to reject such application. Moreover, any salary received by a teacher or administrator who does not hold a proper certification is subject to being paid back to the school district pursuant to §10-145 of the Connecticut General Statutes.12

The Dark Cloud Cast by the Vallas Decision Over Educational Reform in Connecticut

§10-151b of the Connecticut General Statutes, as amended, requires that superintendents of each local or regional board of education not only annually evaluate or cause to be evaluated each teacher, but that such evaluations be based on, and be conducted in accordance with, evaluation plans that meet certain state requirements. There is a process, however, where by school districts may submit permutations of the state evaluation plan to the Commissioner of Education, Mr. Pryor, who has the power to grant a waiver.

The Vallas case is not only about the ethics and integrity of granting superintendent certification waivers; it is not only about failing strictly to comply with a prescribed statutory manner of proceeding when matters of substance are involved; it is not only about the deprofessionalizing of educator leaders by offering them alternatives to certification not based on credentials and relevant experience. It is not only about advertently breaking a covenant required by law to implement the mandates in the general statutes pertaining to education.

It is also about how educational policy is controlled by the politics and behind the scenes corporate style of reform. The same players and institution in the Vallas case have influential roles to play in overseeing the state’s teacher and administrator evaluation reform, exercising seemingly unfettered discretion in giving and withholding waivers from the core requirements and the implementing of the PEAC plan. The University of Connecticut Neag School of Education representatives have tremendous freedom and subjective authority to make decisions.

“While school officials in 10 districts start observing teachers this year as part of the state’s new teacher-evaluation program, someone from the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education will be observing them. . . . ‘Our job will be to determine if the model is being implemented the way it was intended and consistently,’ UCONN education Dean Thomas DeFranco (who also testified in the Vallas case) said. ‘The second thing we have been asked to do is to look at the validity of the model itself. Is the model working?”13

According to Thomas DeFranco, Dean of Neag:

Our role is to evaluate whether the model of teacher effectiveness developed by PEAC is being implemented with fidelity, as well as the validity of the model – that is, how well the model measures what it intends to measure.” 14

The power plays that were seen in the Vallas case may be par for the course in Chicago or Newark, but not here. The admonishment by Judge Aaronson 30 years ago in the Dow case has equal relevance to the players in the Vallas case, whose conduct has been exposed and who yet have major responsibilities with respect to the educational reform movement, whatever the decision of the supreme court in Vallas may be.

“This case involves more than a ministerial failure. The statutes clearly mandate proper certification.  These mandates are designed to protect the integrity of the school system whose aim is to inculcate respect for lawful authority.”15


(1)   Actually, Vallas did teach for a year at a Greek Orthodox grammar school some 35 years ago, where he had also been a student. And Pryor had a brief stint as a student teacher in New Haven when he was at Yale, over 20 years ago.

(2)  Decision, Carmen Lopez, et al v. Bridgeport of Education, et al, Docket No. CV13-6034307S, Superior Court J.D. of Fairfield at Bridgeport (June 28, 2013), p. 2..

(3)  Id., p. 4.

(4)  Section 10-4a of the Conn. Gen. Stats. identifies the four (4) educational interests of the state, the fourth of which is that “the mandates in the general statutes pertaining to education within the jurisdiction of the State Board of Education be implemented.

(5)  This presumes Vallas could have been legally re-appointed as acting superintendent and placed on a second probationary period pursuant to §10-157, as amended, by Pryor’s January 23, 2013 letter; however, there can be no doubt that from July 1, 2012 until at least the end of 2012, Vallas and Pryor were not in compliance with the new law.

(6)   Decision, p. 7.

(7)  Decision, p. 8.

(8)  Decision, p. 9 (fn 11)

(9)  Decision, p. 10.

(10) Decision, p. 27.

(11) Watts v. Indiana, 338 U.S. 49, 52 (1949).

(12) 10-145 of the Connecticut General Statutes (certification necessary to employment). Forfeiture for non-compliance . . . provides in pertinent part that “(n) o teacher, supervisor (or) administrator . . . shall be employed in any of the schools … unless such person possesses an appropriate state certificate, nor shall any such person be entitled to any salary unless such person can produce such certificate dated previous to or the first day of employment . . . .”

(13) (9/7/2013).

(14)  Neag’s new role in Connecticut education reform,” by Linda Conner Lambeck, education/2012/05/21.

(15)   Memorandum of Decision, School Administrators Association of New Haven v. Dow, Superior Court at New Haven, pp. 6,7.