With the Chicago teacher's strike in full swing, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said that they are turning their backs on thousands of students and that President Barack Obama is rooting for the striking educators. Obama's top spokesman said the president has not taken sides but is urging both the teachers and the city to settle quickly. Obama ally, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, called Romney's statement "lip service" as the dispute in the nation's third-largest school system inserted itself into the hard-fought presidential campaign.
At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney said Obama was monitoring the situation in his hometown but was not itching to take on a role in the dispute. "We hope that both sides are able to come together to settle this quickly and in the best interests of Chicago's students," Carney told reporters. The strike by 26,000 teachers and support staff affects almost 400,000 students, and it was the latest flashpoint in the public debate over public employee unions that have roiled politics in Ohio, Wisconsin, and beyond. Obama's political aides recently criticized Romney for seeking to take advantage of the situation and pointed to Romney's repeated campaign statements that class sizes do not impact students' education.
"Playing political games with local disputes won't help educate our kids, nor will fewer teachers," campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said.