White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said at the Monday briefing President Barack Obama is "aware" of the Chicago Teachers' strike--but has "no opinion" other than his "concern" for students and a "hope" both sides come together to settle it "quickly."
This is a contrast to Mitt Romney--who on Monday--came out strongly against the Chicago Teachers Union.
Obama has a difficult situation here: he does not want to undermine Mayor Rahm Emanuel, his former White House chief of staff-- who last week took on major fund-raising responsibilities for the main Obama Super Pac; he does not want to seem lock-step with a public employee union and give ammunition to Romney while at the same time he does not want to alienate organized labor--one of the strongest most loyal base Democratic groups.
Read my Romney/Chicago teachers' strike post HERE.
Republican National Committee press secretary Kirsten Kurkowski said in a statement, "the president isn't taking a position on the Chicago teachers union strike. Is it because he's said he is "committed to" the teachers union and doesn't want to go against his newest fundraiser Rahm Emanuel?" She also recalled, "the Chicago Teachers Union endorsed Obama for president in 2007. Awkward."
RNC chairman Reince Priebus said in a tweet, "Obama has said he is "committed to" the teachers unions. Today's he's been silent on the strike that is hurting his home state students."
The Chicago strike came up twice in the briefing. Here are the full exchanges...
Q Thanks, Jay. A couple of topics, please. I'm wondering what the President's reaction is to the teacher strike in Chicago, assuming he's had a chance to follow that story, and whether he has any reaction to both the strike and how his former Chief of Staff is handling it.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I'm sure he's aware of it -- I know he's aware of it, but I haven't spoken with him about it, so I can't speak for his reaction. I can tell you that as a -- more broadly, that our principal concern is for the students, and his principal concern is for the students and families who are affected by the situation. And we hope that both sides are able to come together to settle this quickly and in the best interest of Chicago's students. But beyond that, I haven't got a specific reaction from the President.
Q Governor Romney weighed in on it and said that the President has chosen a fight -- chosen a side of the fight, that being the unions and the teachers. Any reaction to that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the President, as I think you just heard from me, has not expressed any opinion or made any assessment about this particular incident. I can tell you that this President has pursued an education policy that has been a notable success, and a notable bipartisan success, under the President's and Secretary Duncan's leadership. And he'll continue to do that because he believes, as he says frequently, that investing in education now pays enormous economic dividends later. It is integral to our economic future, and that's why he's made it such an important part of his domestic policy agenda.
And with regard to teachers in particular, you know that he has on the table, and has had on the table since a year ago virtually today, a comprehensive proposal called the American Jobs Act which includes within it a section that would, if implemented by Congress, if Republicans would stop blocking it, put 100,000 teachers on the job and into our classrooms helping educate our children. The President is focused very much on this issue. He certainly doesn't agree with those who think that adding more teachers is not or should not be a priority.
Q One -- considering Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, his history with Chicago -- obviously the President is from there -- should we expect them to have sort of some public -- to weigh in publicly on what's going on?
MR. CARNEY: I think it's our view that the sides in this dispute in Chicago can and should work it out. I don't --
Q Is there a point where you might step in?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don't want to speculate on that. I haven't had that discussion with either Secretary Duncan or the President. I think that we believe that both sides ought to -- and we hope they do -- resolve this in a way that recognizes that it is the interest of Chicago's children that must be preeminent as they work it out. But I don't have any predictions for where it's going to go. We just simply hope that it gets resolved.
Q Is it fair to characterize the White House as sort of neutral in this dispute?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we certainly haven't expressed an opinion on how it should be resolved. We're urging the sides to resolve it.
Q This has been -- there are some reports that there were some Chicagoans that have brought this to the President's attention, this coming showdown before. Can you talk --
MR. CARNEY: Not that I'm aware of. I mean, I'm not with him every moment of the day, but I -- not in my presence, but I don't know.