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Editorial: Emanuel ad strikes a nerve with teachers

Mayor Rahm Emanuel appears an ad backed by an anti-CTU group.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel appears in an ad backed by an anti-CTU group.

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Updated: October 24, 2012 6:35AM

The new TV ad featuring Mayor Rahm Emanuel as he promotes the new teachers contract looks innocent enough.

He’s calm, not overtly confrontational, and he admits the negotiations were difficult for all.

“Change,” the mayor says into the camera, “is never easy.”

But if you’re one of the thousands of active Chicago Teachers Union members familiar with the anti-CTU group that bankrolled the ad, you see it differently:

For them, it’s a poke in the eye.

The group, Education Reform Now Advocacy, is an affiliate of Democrats for Education Reform, a political action committee seeded with New York hedge-fund money.

The PAC, still flush with money (from whom they won’t say), has been attacking the CTU, running pricey ads and, in the its early days, sending out inflammatory press releases and op-eds.

The group asked Emanuel to appear in the ad, which began running after the strike ended.

For many a Chicago teacher, particularly the union leadership, the PAC and its pro-charter school, pro-Emanuel agenda is enemy No. 1.

Is this the best way for Emanuel to calm the waters after a nasty and bitter fight with the union?

We think not.

The mayor has every right to sell the contract. And he should. It’s good for both teachers and students.

But not when the coals are still red-hot, not in a way that further antagonizes teachers.

The ad, of course, is not targeting anti-Emanuel teachers. It’s directed toward parents, taxpayers and supporters of the mayor’s efforts. And that can be particularly infuriating to teachers. The mayor, they say, needs to partner with them before anyone else.

An ad of this kind is unusual after a difficult set of labor negotiations or a strike. Normally, everyone tries to lie low and let emotions die down.

The day CTU called off the strike, we urged the union to do just that. They did the bulk of the flame-throwing during these last few months and have even lobbed a small bomb or two since the strike ended.

Now we’re asking Emanuel to be the quiet one.

We have no illusions of peace between the teachers and Emanuel and his board of education, though relations seems to have improved between the union president and the board president.

What lies ahead is highly contentious: school closings, charter openings, massive budget deficits — and both sides are dug in.

But an effort at peace, just for a moment, sure wouldn’t hurt.

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