Stumping for Chuy, AFT’s Weingarten says Garcia won’t make ‘scorched earth’ decisions

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Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, spoke to the City Club of Chicago on Wednesday, April 1, 2015. | Brian Jackson/For The Chicago Sun-Times

Jesus “Chuy” Garcia won’t treat the community like the enemy, but rather as a partner, the president of the American Federation of Teachers — parent of the Chicago Teachers Union — said Wednesday, stumping for the challenger with just days to go before the mayoral runoff election.

Randi Weingarten told the crowd at a City Club of Chicago lunch that Garcia “understands that when it comes to making tough choices, communities are not our enemy — they need to be our partners.”

“And Chuy understands that it’s hard to plant the seeds of the future when the way you campaign, and the way you govern, leave nothing but scorched earth,” she said, an obvious dig at Mayor Rahm Emanuel for the mainly pro-Garcia crowd.

AFT has so far contributed about $750,000 cash for Garcia plus another $350,000 in kind for staff salaries, according to campaign filings. The teachers union had promised $1 million to the potential campaign of CTU president Karen Lewis before a brain tumor sidelined her plans.

Weingarten had characterized the 2012 teachers strike as “a struggle for the heart and soul of public education for the kids of Chicago.”

On Wednesday, she again called it a “proxy fight between two very different philosophies,” where the union’s philosophy “revolves around the importance of public education and fighting for the investments necessary to nurture the whole child — each and every one.”

“Mayor Emanuel embraced a different philosophy: one that elevated competition; one that created winners and losers; one that divested, not invested; one that shut down neighborhood schools rather than building them up,” she said, alluding to the historic 2013 closing of 50 public schools by Emanuel’s hand-picked school board.

Emanuel campaign spokesman Steve Mayberry said later in an email, “I’m not sure how Ms. Weingarten thinks Chuy will improve the public schools when his only education policy is to outsource CPS leadership to a new set of elected politicians.”

At the City Club and wearing a sparkly turban on her head, Lewis sighed loudly when questions were asked by Democrats for Education Reform and the Illinois Network of Charter Schools.

She did not take questions afterward, but left using a walker, saying she was too tired.

Garcia, between other campaign events, also popped in during audience questions to wave, but didn’t speak. Weingarten planned to join a phone bank for him at the CTU later Wednesday but did not expect to raise any more money for him during her brief trip.

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