Mayor Rahm Emanuel has already gone toe-to-toe with Chicago Teachers Union Karen Lewis on the seven-day teachers strike and on the mayor’s plan to close 53 elementary schools. He’s not eager for Round 3.
On Tuesday, Emanuel took the political high-road when asked about Lewis’ threat to recruit, train and bankroll a candidate to run against the incumbent mayor in 2015.
“There’s about two years between now and the next election…Every day [until then] will be spent focusing on educating our children and making sure they’re prepared and ready for the future,” the mayor said.
“Other people have the right, obviously, to focus on politics. My responsibility to the public is to make sure that our kids are getting an education and ready for the future. That’s where I’m gonna spend my time. That’s where I’m gonna spend my energy. That’s where I expect everybody who’s paid by the public to spend their time and energy…We don’t have a day to waste in making sure that they’re prepared.”
Emanuel was asked whether Lewis’ “high-decibel rhetoric” undermines the “teamwork” needed to deliver for Chicago Public School students and pull off, what would be the largest public school consolidation in the nation’s history.
“I have all the confidence in our teachers. I have all the confidence in our principals. And I have confidence in our administrators as well as the board. And I know where I am,” he said.
“If others want to focus on politics, they have every right to. They make that choice. I make a choice as the mayor for the city of Chicago. My time, my energy like a laser, will be on the children of the city of Chicago.”
The seven-day strike by Chicago teachers was the city’s first in 25 years and it was a walk-out that Emanuel, in part, helped instigate.
The teachers were fueled by their anger against a mayor who stripped them of a previously-negotiated, four percent pay raise and offered schools and teachers extra money to waive the teachers contract and immediately implement his longer school day.
After watching his bullying missteps set the stage for a strike that damaged Chicago’s reputation and turned Lewis into a folk hero, he’s obviously determined to avoid making that same mistake again.