In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, which followed a stop before the Sun-Times, Rahm Emanuel declined to get specific on Chicago's budget challenges and instead focused on education. He argued that Chicago could create a local, privately-funded version of the Obama administration's "Race to the Top" (RTTT) program by providing schools that demonstrate greater parental involvement with more funding. He said parents could sign a contract that commits them to reading to their kids for 30 minutes each night and criticized teachers' unions for opposing RTTT, charter school expansions, and school closings.
Broadly speaking, Candidate Emanuel's education comments signal policy continuity at CPS should he be elected mayor next year. (Private dollars seeping into CPS's projects isn't new. Renaissance 2010, which has closed traditional public schools and opened charters in their stead, has its own fund). What may be different for Emanuel is the new leadership of the teachers union. Since her election as the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) president in June, Karen Lewis has aggressively pushed CTU into the public debate. In just the past few months, the union has demanded tax increment financing dollars for the district, fought the school district's layoffs in federal court, and reached out to community allies.
Emanuel's education pitches to the Tribune engendered an immediate response from Lewis. "Research proves that school closures don't work, merit pay doesn't work and five out of six charters don't work," she told the paper. "It is time for Mr. Emanuel to do his research. His opinion on it isn't important." Whoever is elected Chicago's next mayor will have to contend with CTU.