Updated 2:14 p.m. and 3:44 p.m.
Even before landing at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport this afternoon for an evening fundraiser in the northern suburbs, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney weighed into the Chicago teacher’s strike. Romney and Republicans are seeking to nationalize the politics of the strike, which started today in President Barack Obama’s adopted hometown.
“I am disappointed by the decision of the Chicago Teachers Union to turn its back on not only a city negotiating in good faith but also the hundreds of thousands of children relying on the city’s public schools to provide them a safe place to receive a strong education,” Romney said in a statement. “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 argued that Obama has “chosen his side in this fight by sending his Vice President last year to assure the nation’s largest teachers union that” both men were loyal to their cause.
“I choose to side with the parents and students depending on public schools to give them the skills to succeed, and my plan for education reform will do exactly that,” Romney said.
Obama re-election spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement that “playing political games with local disputes won’t help educate our kids, nor will fewer teachers.”
LaBolt said Obama’s leadership in education has led to school reforms that have won bipartisan cooperation and praise.
“In contrast, Governor Romney has said class size isn’t a problem and he would cut taxes for millionaires by gutting education funding, leading to fewer teachers,” he said.
Asked about the Chicago strike during today’s briefing, White House press secretary Jay Carney said the president’s main concern is for the students and families.
“We hope that both sides are able to come together and settle this quickly,” he said. Carney also said he won’t speculate as to whether Education Secretary Arne Duncan, the former chief executive of Chicago Public Schools, might get involved.
Earlier today, the Illinois GOP called on Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to “focus on Chicago” and step down from his role with an Obama super-PAC in the wake of the strike. Emanuel, Obama’s first White House chief of staff, was working to raise money for Priorities USA Action, a super-PAC founded by former administration officials.
Emanuel is putting his super-PAC activities on hold for now and didn’t attend his previously scheduled appearance at a U.S. House Majority PAC event in Chicago this afternoon.
“The mayor’s first priority is the residents of the City of Chicago,” Thomas Bowen, director of Emanuel’s own political action committee said in a statement. “He is committed to reelecting the president, but he must focus on his job as mayor right now.”