So I’m sure you’ve heard by now that there’s a huge teachers’ strike going on back in President Barack Obama’s adopted hometown of Chicago. Steve Sawchuk has a must-read on this.
But how will it play in the presidential campaign?
Already, Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, put out a statement saying he’s “disappointed” by the union’s decision to strike, and that Obama has picked his dog in this political fight (the unions).
Here’s a snippet from his statement:
“Teachers unions have too often made plain that their interests conflict with those of our children, and today we are seeing one of the clearest examples yet. 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.’ I choose to side with the parents and students depending on public schools to give them the skills to succeed, and my plan for education reform will do exactly that.”
But the statement fails to note that the mayor these teachers are striking against is Obama’s own former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. And Emanuel has been pushing a package of changes that mirror some of the policies the president himself has embraced, including revamping teacher evaluation standards, and adding time to the school day. Plus, Obama’s own relationship with the teachers’ unions hasn’t exactly been a four-year-long love fest.
Of course, there was also plenty of rhetoric aimed at making peace with the unions at the Democratic convention in Charlotte last week. Will the strike hurt the administration’s efforts to smooth things over with the unions in time for the presidential race? We’ll see.
For now, the president—and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the former Chicago schools chief—aren’t weighing in.
“It’s our view that the sides in this can and should work it out,” Obama press secretary Jay Carney said Monday. As to whether Duncan, or the president himself, would intervene, Carney said: “I don’t want to speculate on that. ... I think that we believe that both sides fought to resolve this in a way that recognizes that the children must be preeminent...”
Carney said the White House is essentially neutral: “We haven’t expressed an opinion.”