CHICAGO (WBBM) — Mayoral hopeful Gery Chico got a key endorsement from an old colleague from his days revamping the Chicago Public Schools.

Former CPS boss Paul Vallas, who has been mostly out of the Chicago political spotlight for years, is now supporting Chico’s mayoral bid.

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Vallas says he’s a witness to kind of mayor Chico would make. Like the city does today, they faced a budget deficit when they took over the school system. When they left, Vallas said, the school system had $300 million in reserve funds and over 70 new buildings and improved child education programs.

“Those things were not done with smoke and mirrors … they were done by making tough decisions,” said Vallas, who stood with Chico outside the Orozco School that they both helped build on the near West Side.

With Mayor Daley’s backing, Chico served as school board president during Vallas’ time spent restructuring the school system in the 1990s.

Vallas quit as schools CEO and ran unsuccessfully in the 2002 Democratic primary for governor against Rod Blagojevich. He then left Chicago to run Philadelphia’s schools. He is now superintendent of schools in New Orleans.

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