Politics

Political impact of Chicago teachers strike

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Chicago teachers strike has received attention in the national presidential campaign as a pillar of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration is weakened by adversaries in the teachers union.

Emanuel visited a safe haven for children on the city's Southwest Side Monday, and was asked if he thought the work stoppage was a way for union leaders to embarrass him politically.

"That's the wrong thing to do. Don't take it out on the kids of the City of Chicago. If you've got a problem with me. That's wrong," said Emanuel.

Just one week after Emanuel addressed the Democratic National Convention, he is back in national news as mayor of a city where more than 20,000 public school teachers are on strike and more than 300,000 students are out of school.

The timing of the strike follows a summer in which Emanuel had to explain the city's skyrocketing gun violence and homicide rates.

"I think it will cost the mayor if he doesn't resolve this," said Bishop Larry Trotter, Sweet Holy Spirit Church.

Trotter, who says he wants the mayor to succeed, said Emanuel's campaign promised stable finances, safer streets and stronger schools.

"He is in a position now to win the peoples' hearts or to lose them forever. If you want to hurt somebody, start talking about the kids," said Trotter.

Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney issued a statement on the strike as he visited Chicago for campaign fundraisers.

"President Obama has chosen his side in this fight, sending his vice president last year to assure the nation's largest teachers union that 'you should have no doubt about my affection for you and the president's commitment to you,'" the statement said.

The White House denied the president had taken sides.

"The president, as you've just heard from me, has not expressed any opinion or made any assessment about this particular incident," said Jay Carney, White House press secretary.

"I don't really give two hoots about national comments, scoring political points or trying to embarrass, or whatever, the president," said Emanuel.

During a news conference Monday, Emanuel had strong words for teachers, calling the strike the wrong choice for children.

Emanuel held firm on his position that teachers should be evaluated by local principals as opposed to the central office under metrics set by union contract.

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