Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sought to characterize the teachers strike rocking his city on Monday as a move that could have been avoided.
Speaking at Maranatha Church, a participating organization in the city's “Safe Haven” program for children during the strike, Emanuel said the labor stoppage was “a strike of choice. And it's the wrong choice for our children.”
“I've got enough challenges. I wasn't looking for another challenge,” the mayor went on to say.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney agreed with Emanuel, who was President Barack Obama's first chief of staff. Casting Obama as an ally of teachers unions, Romney blamed the Chicago union for interfering with the interests of children.
“I am disappointed by the decision of the Chicago teachers union to turn its back on not only a city negotiating in good faith but also the hundreds of thousands of children relying on the city's public schools to provide them a safe place to receive a strong education,” Romney said in a statement Monday. “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.'”
Meanwhile, Obama attempted to distance himself from the battle while still remaining on the side of students.
“Our principle concern is for the students. The president's principle concern is for the students and families,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “[Obama] has not expressed an opinion or made any assessment about this particular incident.”
Teachers in the country's third-largest school district went on strike Monday morning for the first time in 25 years after negotiations for a new contract with school administrators collapsed. The strike left 350,000 students with a day off.
City administrators said the unresolved issues include a new teacher-evaluation system and job security for laid-off teachers from under-performing schools. The teachers' union said it is also trying to negotiate compensation, teacher training, health benefits, and an air conditioning schedule for schools, in addition to the teacher evaluation system.