Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Teacher's Union may never get along.
Their relationship has been a testy one since Emanuel arrived in office in May 2011 and has included reports of closed-door chest-poking (by Rahm to CTU president Karen Lewis), forceful press conferences, back room deals and propaganda.
Things didn't get any better last week when Emanuel appeared in a pro-Charter school video produced by the Education Action Group and narrated by Fox News Correspondent Juan Williams. EAG is the same group that released footage of Lewis giving an unsavory speech about Education Secretary Arne Duncan's lisp among other things.
In this video, which was shot in Chicago in October, Emanuel says the school system was never designed to support children and that it needs to change (Emanuel comes in at around 4 minutes.)
Hunter Clauss from the Chicago News Cooperative took a look at the video and asked some questions of local leaders from the mayor's office and from CTU about the video.
Tarrah Cooper, a spokeswoman for Emanuel, said the mayor agreed to the interview because the Education Action Group Foundation wanted to highlight school options in the city.
“He and Juan discussed the reforms within the Chicago Public Schools system to ensure that every child in every neighborhood has access to a world-class education to prepare them for college and career,” Cooper said in an email.
In the video, Williams refers to Emanuel’s decision to enroll his children in private school. “Those who are lucky enough to send their children to private schools, do,” Williams says. “Even the mayor has his children in private schools.”
The film also features clips of CTU President Karen Lewis giving a speech last year mocking U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s lisp and talking about her drug use during college. The footage of Lewis’ speech became public when the Education Action Group Foundation sent an edited version to media outlets in November. Lewis later apologized for her comments but criticized Olson as a “neoconservative, anti-labor and anti-public education blogger.”
Williams describes teachers unions in general as “beneficiaries of the failed status quo” who “obstruct and resist education reform whenever and however it is tried.” He touts charter schools, whose teachers largely are not unionized, as a “Chicago miracle” and a solution to poorly performing public schools, although state achievement test data released last year showed charters schools performed nearly the same as neighborhood schools.
Emanuel has been a firm supporter of charters, which receive taxpayer money but are privately operated. In last year’s mayoral election, Emanuel’s campaign co-chairman was Juan Rangel, who oversees one of the city’s largest charter school networks. Emanuel also has pushed for Chicago Public Schools to adopt policies used by charter operators, such as home visits by teachers, stiffer teacher performance standards and providing merit pay for teachers.
At this rate, it doesn't look like the mayor's office or the CTU will ever play nice.