Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Karen Lewis Slams Rahm's 'Meaningless' Firefighter Jobs Plan in Sun-Times Op-Ed

The CTU boss dismisses Emanuel's proposal to give CPS grads preferential hiring

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Chicago Teachers Union boss and human megaphone Karen Lewis is attacking Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the pages of the Sun-Times, dismissing his new initiative to give CPS grads a leg up in city firefighter jobs as an election-season PR stunt.

    "The mayor’s policy should be rejected for what it really is — a meaningless stunt that does nothing whatsoever to raise CPS graduation rates and has zero impact on the quality of public safety in Chicago," Lewis writes. "It does, however, foster religious and racial divisiveness and invites significant legal challenges that could cost taxpayers millions."

    The CTU leader, currently considering a run for mayor, argues that Emanuel's plan -- which proposes the preferential hiring of former public school students over others -- would offer an "unfair advantage above students enrolled in private or religious schools," most of whom are "classified as 'Caucasian' for racial statistics purposes," she adds.

    Outlining an intriguing counter-proposal, Lewis calls instead for Emanuel to "work toward giving students the educational resources they need to become successful firefighters." One solution is to introduce firefighting and fire science into school curricula as a real-world, vocational course of study -- a move she says could curb high school dropout rates since Career and Technical Education programs keep more kids in the classroom than other tracks.

    A progressive symbol here in Chicago, Lewis was irked by Emanuel's trip to New York City last week for an income inequality summit led by Big Apple Mayor Bill De Blasio, another left-wing icon and proponent of public school education and teachers. Like Lewis, De Blasio has clashed with charter schools and supporters; like Emanuel, he's attempting to get universal pre-K for every urban student.

    Lewis accused Emanuel of affecting a liberal image to snag more votes following three years of "closing schools, demoralizing the police department and creating a mess." Emanuel denied allegations that he sought to puff up his progressive track record and blamed his poor reviews on Chicagoans' "economic stress."

    His political future at stake, Emanuel -- now the underdog for 2015 -- is trying on a De Blasio-esque progressive persona amid a sharp decline in his approval rating. Last week the Chicago Tribune published a survey revealing that if the election were held today, a majority of Chicagoans would back Lewis over Emanuel.

    A spokesperson for the mayor did not immediately respond to Ward Room's request for comment on Lewis' op-ed.