Arne Duncan backs Paul Vallas in April 4 mayoral runoff election

Former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan is endorsing Paul Vallas in the April 4 mayoral runoff, calling Vallas the "best person" to force the Chicago Police Department "into the modern age" and change the police union’s "deeply ingrained culture of passive resistance to reform."

With strong support from Chicago business leaders, Duncan seriously considered running for mayor before taking a pass because he was unwilling to walk away from Chicago CRED, the nonprofit he founded to combat violence.

Much of Duncan’s strategy coincides with Johnson’s $1 billion plan to deliver Chicago from violent crime by "investing in people." But Duncan chose Vallas, citing his ongoing relationship with the Fraternal Order of Police.

Duncan worked for Vallas and succeeded him as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. He called Vallas "our best hope for a safer Chicago" because of his ability to "tell police the truth and hold them accountable."


"Paul Vallas would be the best person to push CPD into the modern age and bring change to a toxic, broken police culture. Vallas comes from a family of police. As an unpaid adviser to the FOP and the union representing police sergeants, he negotiated meaningful reforms in both contracts. He also has not taken contributions from them," Duncan wrote.

"Johnson, on the other hand, has called for shifting funds from police to social services. And I worry that the FOP would go to war with him on day one, just as the [Chicago Teachers Union] did with [Lori] Lightfoot after she defeated the union’s preferred candidate for mayor in 2019. We would all continue to pay a devastating price for that conflict."

Duncan has talked repeatedly — and again in an op-ed Friday endorsing Vallas — about the "four pillars" for reducing gun violence.

They are taking violence prevention programs like his own "to scale;" focusing youth programs on the "most at-risk teens and pre-teens;" and "partnering with business to hire from and invest in" Chicago’s most chronically violent communities.

The fourth pillar — fixing CPD — is "by far the hardest of all," in part because of a "deeply ingrained culture of passive-aggressive resistance to reform among some police and their union," Duncan wrote.

"The union, along with police leadership, has dragged its feet on implementing the consent decree that grew out of the murder of Laquan McDonald. And the union has tacitly endorsed a `blue flu’ when it suits their interests," Duncan wrote.

Duncan urged Chicagoans to ask themselves which of the two candidates is best able to transform the police department "from a demoralized, ineffective police agency into an accountable and transparent public safety partner with the community."

"That’s why Chicago needs a mayor who can tell CPD and its union the hard truth. We need CPD to take responsibility for its long and troubled history of abuse. We need to deploy police where and when crime is happening — instead of where and when they choose to work. We need to recruit good police — not just more police. We need leadership to create a department that is sincerely committed to real partnerships with the community instead of just lip service," Duncan wrote.

"And we need to do all of these things while rebuilding morale in a department where retirements and suicides have spiked. It’s a daunting challenge."