Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been locked in an escalating grudge match with the Chicago Teachers Union over his efforts to close and consolidate several underutilized schools in the city.
The CTU has aggressively fought the move, which would reduce the number of teachers and therefore the union’s power. That’s part of the reason for the fight. The other is that Emanuel and CTU President Karen Lewis have become bitter enemies.
A lengthy story in the current issue of the Nation argues that Lewis is winning the fight. Lewis has rallied the city’s liberal groups to her side and further radicalized the city’s already-hard left teachers union members. Street protests, sit-downs and other acts of civil disobedience have become common.
The nastiness of the fight has tarnished Emanuel’s reputation on the political left. Once considered a possible contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, Emanuel now says he won’t even bother. He told the Chicago Sun-Times, “I am not running for higher office, ever.”
The union is not letting up either: “So let me tell you what you’re gonna do. On the first day of school (in September), you show up at your real school! Don’t let these people take your schools!” the Nation quotes Lewis saying at March rally.
For more on Emanuel’s battle with Lewis, read my column “Meet Rahm Emanuel, school reform leader” and watch Lewis recount how a personal meeting with him deteriorated into an expletive-laden shouting match.