(CHICAGO) -- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel today had a blunt message for negotiators involved in the ongoing teachers strike, the city’s first in a quarter of a century: “Stay at the table. Finish it for our children.”
"This is a strike of choice and it's the wrong choice for our children and it’s not necessary. Totally avoidable,” Emanuel said at a press conference following his visit this morning to Maranatha Church, one of around 60 faith-based organizations serving as safe haven sites for children to use during the strike.
“We need to just finish the job – given all the work that’s gone on – to make sure that our kids get the education they need,” he urged.
Emanuel said the two sides had reached an agreement on every issue except two: teacher evaluations and control over hiring decisions.
“Everything here is down to two final issues. It's not air conditioning, okay? It’s 71 degrees outside. It’s not air conditioning. We don’t go on strike for air conditioning. Two issues, fundamental: an evaluation system designed by teachers, for teachers, revised by teachers [and] a system in which the local principal picks the most qualified teacher to teach or downtown does it. And I am against downtown. I want the local principal, your neighborhood school principal, picking the best qualified teacher.”
While the teachers union has argued that the evaluation system emphasizes students’ standardized test scores too heavily and unfairly penalizes teachers, Emanuel said he believes the tests would reflect better on the teachers’ performances than the teachers themselves seem to think.
"I have a bigger confidence in the quality of our teachers than they do, which I think is a little strange,” he noted.
The mayor claimed the latest offer presented to the teachers union was a fair one.
“This offer is respectful of our teachers, it does right by our students, and it is fair to our taxpayers. It is a 16 percent pay increase over four years. But what we can't do is roll back what is essential to improving the quality of our education,” he said.
“I'm not going to allow another generation to go on the shortest school day in the shortest school year. I’m not going to allow another generation to go that doesn’t make sure that we make improvements in our most rigorous curriculum,” he added.
Before concluding, Emanuel denounced Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s statement today on the teachers strike as nothing more than “lip service.”
“I don’t really give two hoots about national comments scoring political points or trying to embarrass, or whatever, the president.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio