Chicago, IL

In the Chicago Mayoral Runoff Where Vallas and Johnson Stand on Education

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

Chicago voters will return to the voting booths on April 4 to decide between two candidates with vastly different views on public education
Lincoln Park Public High School in ChicagoPhoto byVernes Seferovic/Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 2.0]

In the 2023 Chicago mayoral runoff election, Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas have expressed quite different views on the city's public education system. Both candidates have discussed Chicago's public schools in terms of enrollment decline, learning loss, social emotional gaps, school board representation, teacher strikes, accountability policies, student-based budgeting, tax-credit scholarship programs, special education, and vocational education.

Brandon Johnson outlines a need for sustainable community schools alongside affordable housing to address declining enrollment, and advocates for more resources and trauma interventions for students and families affected by violence.

Additionally, Johnson advocates for free bus and train rides for all students, creating greater opportunities for continuing education by establishing relationships with trade schools and City Colleges. He promotes increasing utilization of schools that are under-enrolled by using them as shared facility space for health clinics and child care.

Johnson’s education plan is based on the union’s long time emphasis on the bigger picture including addressing such issues as affordable housing and gun violence.

According to Johnson, “Educating the whole child means dealing with the root causes. And all of the root causes are directly tied to the failures of political insiders and politicians who refuse to actually see people and recognize that poverty is one of the most isolating, awful, excruciating experiences that one could ever live through.”

Paul Vallas aims to expand magnet and career and technical education schools and ensure high-quality arts and athletic programs. While he supports trade and vocational education he believes the best way to make this education worthwhile is to establish a broader work-study program in all public high schools and re-establish occupational training programs so students will have options besides just attending college. He advocates for establishing relationships with local businesses and trade unions, believing this is the best way to assure success for all students after high school.

Regarding the gap in education that occurred due to the pandemic, Vallas proposes extending and expanding educational opportunities. He stated, "In order to meet the gap our children are facing I will open all school buildings through the dinner hour, weekends and summers. We need to invite community organizations to provide enrichment to students in the CPS during these off hours, as well as invite retired CPS Teachers to provide tutoring and academic support to the students." 

The runoff election for Chicago mayor will take place on April 4, 2023.

His platform also calls for the overhaul of the district’s funding model, investments in bilingual educators and clinicians to better serve migrant and vulnerable students, and making school buildings greener and ADA accessible. 


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