PAUL VALLAS, the former CEO of the school district who left a controversial legacy here, was named the 2014 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in Illinois, his running mate, incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn, announced yesterday.

"I've known Paul Vallas for 30 years and he's never been shy about fighting for education, reform and opportunities for working people," Quinn said yesterday in a statement that sent some shock waves through Chicago's political establishment.

In the same statement, Vallas, who ran in the 2001 Illinois Democratic primary for governor but lost to now-imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, said, "I'm honored to join forces with the strongest reform governor in the country. . . . Together we will fight every day for working families and deliver the reform and change that Illinois deserves."

Vallas had been Chicago schools chief before he was hired in July 2002 to head Philly schools. He was credited for improving test scores, establishing a standardized curriculum and introducing mandatory summer school for failing students. But, in fall of 2006, an unexpected $73 million deficit was discovered, resulting in a blame game among city officials, clashes with the School Reform Commission and reduction in staff.

Vallas, who earned $250,000 per year, announced in April 2007 that he was leaving to become superintendent of New Orleans schools. He used vacation days after he left the district in order to qualify for a $100,000 retention bonus. He also received another $80,000 in unused sick pay.

While Vallas' nomination caused a stir in Illinois, back in Connecticut it also marked the end to his contentious and litigious stint as superintendent of Bridgeport Public Schools.

Vallas, 60, lost his $234,000-a-year job in June after a Connecticut Superior Court judge ruled that he lacked the required certification to be superintendent under state law. Judge Barbara Bellis later ordered Vallas to vacate the position, but the State Supreme Court ruled he could remain with Bridgeport after he appealed the ruling.

"We've had a lot of problems with the [Vallas] policies because they weakened the schools here," Lindsay Farrell, executive director of the Connecticut Working Families Party, told the Daily News. "The voters told Paul Vallas on Tuesday to take a hike. We're glad he's leaving Bridgeport, but we wouldn't wish him on anyone."

Jennifer Alexander, the CEO of the reform group ConnCan, said, "Since becoming superintendent less than two years ago, Vallas has made a series of improvements to help strengthen public education in our state's largest city, including: closing an $18 million budget deficit, and helping to ensure high-school seniors have access to coursework and technology that will prepare them for college and 21st-century jobs."

Online: ph.ly/DNEducation