It’s the second day of Chicago’s first teachers’ strike in 25 years. What’s clear is that 350,000 students are out of class, and labor negotiations over teacher evaluations and the rehiring of laid-off teachers have not yet yielded a compromise.
What’s less clear is what the various players (including, of course, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s former chief of staff) and issues at stake will mean for national education policies and the upcoming presidential election. Already, Mitt Romney has made it clear where he stands, the Washington Post reports:
It is also the boldest confrontation yet involving one of a growing number of Democratic mayors who have been pressuring unions to accept policy changes in cities such as Boston, Cleveland and Los Angeles, creating a schism between the Democrats and a traditional ally.
“It’s not just about the negotiations in Chicago,” said Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform. “Because of the visibility of the mayor, this is an important stand for the union. They’re trying to send a message nationally about what teacher unions are going to tolerate from Democratic mayors.”…
Romney underscored the president’s relationship with unionized teachers and, more broadly, organized labor. In a statement, Romney, who has assailed unionized teachers as an obstacle to education reform, also seemed to be taking a page from the playbook of two Republican governors, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Chris Christie of New Jersey, who made political gains by taking on public employee unions.
“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,” Romney said. “President Obama has chosen his side in this fight.”