Sunday, May 18, 2008

Paul Vallas on School Choice: The Republican Messiah?

Paul Vallas, once more for Gov, with feeling?

Paul Vallas, who re-made and reformed the Chicago Public School ("CPS") system, under Mayor Daley, from 1995 to 2001, as its CEO-Superintendent, was back in town on April 28, 2008 at the City Club of Chicago to tease a bunch of supporters and Vallas fans about making another run for Governor in 2010. After Vallas came in a close second to Rod Blagojevich in the 2002 Democratic Gubernatorial Primary, he exiled himself first to Philadelphia to be that City’s Public School CEO and more recently to be CEO of the Recovey School District of New Orleans. That contract is up in June, 2009. Vallas will apparently decide about taking on Blago, et al for Gov in 2010 sometime after the first of the year.

Vallas, at the City Club of Chicago, on Education Reform

However, the focus of his discussion on April 28, 2008 was on ten or so concepts or ideas that are crucial to reforming education. But, the key concept was school choice, a concept that has now been embraced by Vallas much more warmly than any Republican mentioned as a serious and credible 2010 Guv candidate. Yes, Vallas’s social issue positions might be a bit hard to swallow by the great majority of Republican Primary activists. But if they could, Vallas could be the Republican messiah in Illinois. Take a listen to him on School Choice, below and watch Vallas speak here [But watch him today, as he’ll be gone [from the link] tomorrow—perhaps not unlike the real Paul Vallas]:

Paul Vallas on school-choice: “…You can’t be against school choice and be for kids.”

If anyone was wondering if I have a chance of becoming a candidate for governor, I have become even more[for] school choice and that certainly is not going to help me with certain constituencies. I have never opposed subsidies for parochial and private schools. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindahl has an initiative to provide scholarships to use at private schools. I am the only superintendent to support that initiative--you can’t be against school choice and be for kids. I made a decision a long time ago that I was not going to oppose anything that benefits kids, regardless of which schools it is benefiting-- simple as that.

In order to save New Orleans, we need school options, whether it is parochial or private, whether it is charter schools. Half our children, right now, in New Orleans, are being educated in charter schools. One third of the kids in Philadelphia were being educated in charter schools and privately managed schools. I am agnostic-- I don’t care who is managing the schools, I don’t care, as long as we are expanding school choice. Our position with the archdiocese in Louisiana is to offer the archdiocese a charter, so rather than close a financially failing parochial school-- redesign that school day, tweak it, however you want to do it, so that we can …convert that school to a charter and keep that school open.

But you have to have school choice-- low-income parents need the same choices that affluent parents have. It not only creates competition but it allows parents to then become more engaged in their children’s education. When you have no choices, sometimes you give up; sometimes you resign yourself to the failure of that local school. But when you have choices, sometimes that has a liberating effect. So many inner city kids don’t believe they have choices, don’t believe they have opportunities, so I am always going to be a supporter of sch—pro-choice, obviously I am going to have check my party membership now, Tom [Roeser], so—so be it, so I know, everybody, hang on, what are you going to do, you’ll take me?

Excerpted from Paul Vallas’ speech to the City Club of Chicago, April 28, 2008.
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