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Chicago Teacher Strike: Who Will Get the Blame?

Less than a month into the school year, the Chicago Teachers Union has launched a strike after failing to reach an agreement with Mayor Rahm Emanuel over salaries, job security and performance evaluations:

City officials said that negotiations had resumed Monday and that two issues remained unresolved: the fate of laid-off teachers and whether they ought to have priority in future job openings, and a new teacher evaluation system, which union leaders say would be based far too heavily on student test scores.

The teachers’ union, however, said it remained at odds with the city over compensation, teacher training, health benefits and a schedule for air conditioning in all schools, as well as the evaluation system.

Meanwhile, both sides in the dispute are digging in for a longer struggle:

Late Sunday, Mr. Emanuel told reporters that school district officials had presented a strong offer to the union, including what some officials described as what would amount to a 16 percent raise for many teachers over four years — and that only two minor issues remained. “This is totally unnecessary, it’s avoidable and our kids do not deserve this,” Mr. Emanuel said, describing the decision as “a strike of choice.” . . .

While negotiators handled the private talks, Chicagoans watched what appeared to be a contentious, sometimes personal fight between two blunt and resolute personalities: Mr. Emanuel and Ms. Lewis, who has described the mayor in recent days as a “bully” and a “liar,” and in a recent interview added, “I think the whole idea of an imperial mayoralty where you wave a magic wand or cuss someone out and things happen is untenable.”

As hundreds of thousands of frustrated Chicago parents scramble to find babysitters or stay home from work, one wonders whether voters will pin the blame on the unions or their Democratic mayor. If recent events in the similarly blue Rhode Island are any indication, taking on the unions could be a winning strategy for Rahm Emanuel. 

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