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Who Paul Vallas Is

The grandson of Greek immigrants, Paul Vallas grew up in the Roseland neighborhood on the South Side.

The Vallases owned and ran a Greek restaurant where Paul and his entire family worked. Paul was educated in the Chicago Public School system, attending Pullman Elementary, Curtis Elementary and Fenger Academy High School. Paul attended Moraine Valley Community College and Western Illinois University, where he received a bachelor's degree in history and political science, a master's degree in political science, and a teaching certificate. 

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Paul served the Illinois state legislature for ten years, first as an advisor to the Education and  Appropriation and Revenue Committees, then as the Director of the Illinois Economic and Fiscal Commission, which is Illinois’ legislative economic forecasting and research arm. He developed a strong working relationship with groundbreaking State Senator Dawn Clark Netsch, who became a mentor and friend for many years. During his tenure he was involved in helping resolve  numerous financial challenges and state economic development financing issues.

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Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley recruited Paul in 1990 to reform the scandal-ridden Department of Revenue and to revamp the City's tax and fees system. When promoted to Budget Director, Paul ended the City's recurring budget crisis, while simultaneously allocating funding to put an additional 1,500 police on the streets. He financed the largest infrastructure investment program since the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, including resurfacing 70-percent, or 38,000 miles, of Chicago’s streets and roads.

In 1995, Mayor Daley took control over the financially bankrupt and academically failing Chicago Public Schools and appointed Paul as the nation’s first public school district CEO. As CEO, Paul closed a projected five-year $1.3 billion budget deficit, balanced six consecutive budgets, instituted the largest school construction plan in the nation’s history ($3 billion), improved test scores each year, created 15 International Baccalaureate Academies and opened the nation’s first public High School Military Academies. He left  the district with labor peace with no teacher strikes, fully funded pensions, $1.2 billion in cash reserves, and unprecedented bond rating upgrades - twelve during his tenure. 

In 2001, the City of Philadelphia recruited Paul to be CEO of the financially bankrupt and academically failing School District of Philadelphia, where he instituted many of the same successful reforms that he pursued in Chicago. After Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco in 2007 asked Paul to take over the Recovery School District of Louisiana (RSD), which was tasked with rebuilding the school system in New Orleans. Paul’s most recent superintendent assignment was the state of Connecticut’s takeover of its largest city’s schools, the Bridgeport Public Schools, which faced a severe financial crisis and were academically failing. In each of these positions Paul was able to significantly improve local schools. 


Paul has also worked on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education to improve schools in Native American communities, for the U.S. Justice Department to reform the Bureau of Prisons education system, as an educational consultant to the governments of Haiti and Chile to rebuild their school systems after devastating natural disasters, and numerous other posts.


Paul and his wife, Sharon Vallas, raised three wonderful sons, Gus, Mark, and Paul Jr. Paul is proud of the public service career commitments of Gus and Paul, Jr. who are both public safety first responders.


In 2018, Paul and Sharon’s son Mark died as a result of opioid abuse. 


Now living in Bridgeport and running for Mayor to put crime reduction and public safety first, Paul has always maintained close ties to the City of Chicago even when working in other cities and countries as a public servant and problem solver.


He is proud to be endorsed by the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board, leading elected officials and advocacy groups and more.

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