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Bill Daley defends brother’s record on schools after Emanuel jab

President Barack Obamannounces thBill Daley (right) his White House chief staff is leaving his post January 2012.  |

President Barack Obama announces that Bill Daley (right), his White House chief of staff, is leaving his post in January 2012. | Susan Walsh~AP

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Updated: October 7, 2012 8:08AM

CHARLOTTE , N.C. — Former White House chief of staff Bill Daley on Wednesday defended Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handling of negotiations with Chicago teachers poised to strike, but disagreed that students “got the shaft” under Daley’s brother.

“The mayor has to lead. He’s been out there leading. He puts things on the table. He challenges people. That’s what leaders do. If you’re gonna drive a bus from the back of the bus, it isn’t gonna go very straight or very fast,” Bill Daley said.

“There’s always rhetoric around a strike or potential strike and negotiations that get heated. But, the mayor’s comments have been very measured — unlike some others.”

Barring an 11th-hour agreement, Chicago teachers are scheduled to walk off the job on Monday for the first time since 1987.

They authorized a strike by a 90 percent vote, fueled by their anger against a mayor who canceled a previously negotiated, 4 percent pay raise and tried to rush implementation of his signature plan for a longer school day and school year without consulting teachers about how that extra time in the classroom should be used.

Bill Daley recalled that his brother, former Mayor Richard M. Daley, was similarly “criticized and beat up” after the Illinois General Assembly gave the mayor control over Chicago Public Schools in 1995.

Bill Daley and Rahm Emanuel are longtime friends and political allies.

Bill Daley succeeded Emanuel as White House chief of staff. Emanuel followed Daley’s brother as mayor after a campaign the Daley brothers pretended to stay out of, even though it was an open secret they were four-square behind Emanuel.

But, since Emanuel took office, the shadow dance with Richard M. Daley has been a constant sub-plot.

Emanuel has criticized or “turned the page” from many of the things his predecessor did.

On the day that Emanuel publicly defended his decision to cancel the 4 percent raises, he said teachers got the gold mine and students got “the shaft” with not a minute longer in the classroom.

The mayor’s “got the shaft” remark infuriated teachers. Bill Daley didn’t agree with that assessment of his brother’s tenure, either.

“I don’t think he gave away too much [to teachers]. He gave the opportunity for kids in Chicago to have a better education. That’s what he fought for. They had more investment by the taxpayers in the schools of Chicago,” Bill Daley said.

The former mayor’s brother said Emanuel “has to lead a city with shrinking revenues and growing demands. That’s a tough thing to do. Rich did that for 23 years and did it, in most voters’ minds, pretty well. He’s proud of his record, and we’re proud of him.”

Earlier this week, thousands of teachers marched around City Hall calling Emanuel a “liar” and a “bully.”

During a whirlwind, 36-hour trip to the Democratic National Convention shortened by the impending strike, Emanuel refused to take the bait.

“I’ve been in politics long enough. They can say what they want about me. It’s not about me. It’s not about anybody else. And it’s not a personality fight. It’s about our children,” he said.

The mayor was asked whether he can relate to the anxiety of parents whose kids attend Chicago Public Schools when his own children attend the private and pricey University of Chicago Lab School.

“Yes. Because I also have children,” he said. “People didn’t make a decision to vote for me or not vote for me based on my own children, but based on what I can do for their children.”

The mayor said there’s still plenty of time to avert a strike and he “didn’t miss a beat” by making the quickie-trip to Charlotte.

“If everybody stays at the table and works through the issues as we have through the weekend making good and steady progress, our kids should stay in the classroom,” he said. “Every day they’re not there is a day that’s been taken away from them. And it’s not necessary.”

Pressed on whether he is willing to take a strike if that’s what it takes to achieve his ultimate education goals, the mayor said he doesn’t believe in “negotiating in public” or “setting expectations.”

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a former Chicago Schools CEO, was equally hopeful.

“They’re still talking. They’ve got some time. ... I’m very hopeful folks will work this out and do the right thing for kids and for the city. I’ve got a lot of confidence in adults that they’ll figure things out,” he said.

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