Burke says teachers strike had potential to create a real crisis in Chicago

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Chicago’s seven-day teachers strike “had the potential to really create a crisis” in the city and should have been avoided, the City Council’s most powerful alderman said Wednesday.

Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th), chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee, unleashed his frustrations as the parent and grandparent of Chicago Public School students while addressing a group of college students in the Council chambers.

It happened when a student from Burke’s alma mater, DePaul University, asked the alderman whether he believed the teachers were justified in walking off the job.

“My reaction to that question is somewhat selfish because I have a 16-year-old [who] was home for seven days and I have three grandchildren in grammar school [who] were home for seven days,” Burke told the student.

“This past seven days when the teachers were out on strike had the potential to really create a crisis in Chicago…I would have hoped that the teachers could have achieved their goal without walking out….Politics is the art of compromise. I would have hoped that they could have achieved their goals without the strike. Let’s hope, though, that both sides have learned something from that crisis.”

As he left the chambers, Burke was asked what specific lessons he wants both sides to learn. Does he believe, for example, that Mayor Rahm Emanuel should ask the Il. General Assembly to outlaw teachers strikes, like state law already does for police officers and firefighters?

“We ought to let the smoke die down and look at it in the future and perhaps do panels or have some analysis,” the alderman said.

“People need to stand back now….and not be anxious to rush to judgment. Keep in mind that it’s the kids [who] suffer when these kinds of things happen. Hopefully, everybody will learn a little bit from this.”

Apparently alluding to the bad blood between Emanuel and Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, the alderman said, “To quote the great Edmund Burke, he said that, `In politics, there are no permanent enemies, no permanent friends, only permanent interests.’ Here, the interests are the kids.”

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