The Straits Times
Published on Sep 11, 2012

Chicago teachers go on strike as Obama pushes for education reform


CHICAGO (AFP) - Chicago teachers went on strike on Monday for the first time in 25 years, leaving 400,000 children off school and creating a political minefield for President Barack Obama in his adopted hometown.

The strike in the nation's third largest school district is particularly awkward for Mr Obama because the union is fighting his former chief of staff, Mr Rahm Emanuel, who left the White House to run for mayor of the Windy City.

Unions are a key source of support for Obama's Democrats, and the party has fought to maintain the support of teachers even as Mr Obama pushes for major education reform which would give schools more leeway to fire poor performers.

Mr Obama has attacked Republicans for failing to prevent cash-strapped local and state governments from laying off some 300,000 teachers since 2009 and for favouring tax cuts over education funding.