Chicago Teachers' Strike Poses Challenge for Obama Campaign

The strike in the president's hometown pits him between union supporters and independent voters

A teachers’ strike is creating havoc for parents and 400,000 students in Chicago this week, with 29,000 teachers and support staff involved in a walkout in the nation’s third-largest school system. And the strike could do a bit of damage to the presidential campaigns as well.

It puts President Barack Obama in a bind, because he needs the support of unions in the November election. At the same time, he can’t risk alienating independent voters, who are concerned about Democrats aligning too closely with powerful labor organizations, according to an analysis in the Chicago Tribune

Obama isn’t directly involved in the strike, and the White House has said it’s not choosing sides.

But many people closely associate the president with Chicago politics, as the city is his hometown. His current education secretary, Arne Duncan, used to oversee Chicago’s schools and supports the changes that have infuriated the teachers. In addition, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is well known as Obama’s former chief of staff.

Seeing an opportunity, GOP hopeful Mitt Romney said the walkout shows the president in a negative light.

“Teachers unions have too often made plain that their interests conflict with those of our children, and today we are seeing one of the clearest examples yet,” said Mr. Romney, according to the Washington Times. “President Obama has chosen his side in this fight. … I choose to side with the parents and students depending on public schools to give them the skills to succeed, and my plan for education reform will do exactly that.”

Alesandra Dubin is a Los Angeles-based writer and the Chief Election News Blogger for iVillage. Follow her on Twitter: @alicedubin.

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