(USNewsMag.com) – Brandon Johnson, a liberal activist and former school teacher, defeated Paul Vallas, 51% to 49%, to become Chicago’s next mayor on April 4. Vallas was a previous Chicago Public School (CPS) administrator in Chicago with a hard-on-crime agenda and a love of charter schools. The six-week campaign focused on education and crime, with both candidates presenting opposing plans.
Crime dominated the campaign. The Fraternal Order of Police of Chicago supported Vallas, while the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) supported Johnson. He promised to employ more law enforcement personnel and prioritize school safety in his educational programs. Vallas, the CEO of 12 charter schools based on military-style academies, is a charter school advocate.
CPS enrollment drop is a major concern. Almost 37,000 students, or 10% of the population of the district, left school in the two years starting in 2019. Chicago schools were closed intermittently until January 2022, which may have caused this drop.
Despite this instability, the CTU is a significant political organization that funded Johnson’s campaign with member dues.
Johnson, a commissioner in Cook County, won the support of the CTU by pledging to finance the city’s public schools. Despite enrollment losses, Johnson has pledged not to shut low-enrolled schools and to finance schools based on community and student needs rather than per pupil. This would subsidize schools with declining enrollments.
Vallas, CPS’ CEO from 1995 through 2001, was less supportive of Johnson’s financing push. He noted that just 60% of school expenditures arrive in the classroom, while 80% of CPS pupils are reading less than grade level and only 15% even meet grade competency levels.
Johnson’s win will increase the CTU’s political power. Former CPS CEO Forrest Claypool argued that the CTU has more authority than special interest organizations or any other union because they may strike, unlike transit, firefighters, and police employees. They additionally exert a big influence on working families with no alternative school options. They would be dangerous with that authority and a mayor who’s effectively a subsidiary.
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