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Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Emanuel Disavows 25% of School Kids, Says CTU

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The Chicago Teacher's Union President recalls a conversation in which Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he had already written off 25% of the students in Chicago.

    Karen Lewis, the Chicago Teacher's Union President, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have a testy relationship at best.

    But it wasn't always that way.

    The two leaders met privately last year ahead of Emanuel's inauguration. They went for dinner and to attend a dance — both are fans of the art form — and to develop a working relationship. 

    "We were both seeing who the other person was," she said.

    Karen Lewis Uncensored

    [CHI] Karen Lewis Uncensored
    The CTU President makes fun of Arne Duncan's lisp. Video Courtesy of the Education Action Group Foundation.

    Lewis said she got her answer about Emanuel's character rather quickly.

    "In that conversation, he did say to me that 25 percent of the students in this city are never going to be anything, never going to amount to anything and he was never going to throw money at them."

    She said the comment took her aback, and she looked at him askance.

    "Even if you feel that way, you can't say that to me," she said. "And he sort of poo-pooed it and we moved on."

    The Mayor's Office said Lewis made up the anecdote.

    "That's simply false," said Emanuel Press Secretary Sarah Hamilton. "The Mayor is committed to making sure that every single child in Chicago has access to an excellent education, which is why he is fighting so hard to transform the Chicago public schools that have failed our children year after year."

    Lewis says the mayor says one thing in public and another in private.

    "I've only been in office a year and a half — I'm a classroom teacher — and nobody told me that when you say crazy stuff you're not supposed to discuss it. And we talk about transparency and opening things up and having a real conversation about things... If you say one thing privately and another thing publicly, then how do we negotiate that?"

    During the interview, which will play in full on Friday's edition of Ward Room the Television Show, Lewis said what really rubbed her the wrong way about the comment, and what prompted her to speak out, was that the mayor is often seen walking and talking with students who could be the very same ones she says he said he would never help.

    Watch the full interview with Chicago Teacher's Union President Karen Lewis this Friday on Ward Room the Television Show on NBC NonStop.