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Rahm, Rauner Weigh In On Teachers Strike

By  Joe Ward and Mina Bloom | September 29, 2016 2:14pm | Updated on September 30, 2016 10:42am

 Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaking to reporters after a ceremony at Skinner North Classical School on the Near North Side.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaking to reporters after a ceremony at Skinner North Classical School on the Near North Side.
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

CHICAGO — Both Gov. Bruce Rauner and Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke out against a teacher's strike Thursday, calling it everything from "tragic" to "totally unnecessary."

Asked about the potential of a strike by the Chicago Teachers Union — the third work stoppage for the union since 2012 — Rauner said he hoped successful negotiations between the city and the union would stave off a strike he said would hurt the city. 

"I hope that negotiations can come to a fruitful conclusion and that there is no strike," Rauner said at an unrelated event in the West Loop. "A strike would be terrible for the children of Chicago. It would be terrible for the hard-working families, the home owners and taxpayers of Chicago."

 A teacher's strike would be
A teacher's strike would be "terrible" and "tragic" for students and city residents, Gov. Bruce Rauner said Thursday. 
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DNAinfo/Joe Ward

The governor's comments come a day after the teachers union announced an Oct. 11 strike date if further negotiations with the city did not produce a labor contract.

"It would be a very tragic event," Rauner said. 

Rauner has sparred with the teachers union before, which in turn has denounced Rauner and his public-education policies at rallies and press conferences. 

The governor had to apologize for calling Chicago teachers "virtually illiterate" while CTU President Karen Lewis called Rauner "the new ISIS recruit."

Rauner proposed that Chicago Public Schools declare bankruptcy and fall under state rule while the district was shedding thousands of jobs amidst a massive budget crisis. CTU leadership called the idea an "education abomination."

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Rauner said CPS's current fiscal crisis and stalemate with the teachers union is due to years of mismanagement.

"Unfortunately, Chicago Public Schools has been financially mismanaged and structurally mismanaged for decades," he said. "The mismanagement is coming home to roost."

At an unrelated press conference Thursday at Skinner North Classical School, 640 W. Scott St., Emanuel told reporters the strike was "one of choice, and not of necessity."

"I believe first and foremost we had a basic agreement that outlined the 13-percent pay raise. It not only secured their pay raise, it secured their pension. That's why they agreed to it. When it was taken to a third party arbiter, that arbiter said it was a fair deal and that's why they agreed to it," Emanuel said.

The mayor went on, saying "It was a fair offer that recognized the hard work for our teachers."

When asked about about releasing Tax Increment Finance (TIF) funds to avert a strike, Emanuel stressed that the number one recipient of those funds are Chicago Public Schools. He said to expect another "sweep" of TIF surpluses, but emphasized that it's not a long-term solution.

"We have swept TIF surpluses to help stabilize the finances, strengthen the finances more importantly. We froze downtown TIFs last year. We will, in my budget, have another sweep of TIF surpluses, but don't mistake long-term stability for short-term. That's all a TIF does," he said.

In closing remarks, Emanuel said, "We can work this out. Put politics aside, and put focus on the energy and enthusiasm in this room," pointing to Skinner North's auditorium where parents, teachers and students convened for a ceremony celebrating the school's national Blue Ribbon award.

CPS CEO Forrest Claypool told reporters there will be a contingency plan should a strike occur.

In a letter sent home to parents, CPS said it's still finalizing its plans. 

"We take our responsibility to provide a safe environment for our students seriously, and will use the coming days to determine the best course of action," the letter reads.

"You should expect to receive additional information about our contingency plans from your principal early next week."

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