(CNN) – Mitt Romney implicated President Barack Obama Monday in the ongoing strike of teachers in Chicago, portraying his Democratic rival as bending to powerful teachers' unions at the expense of parents and students.
Romney's statement put him in the unlikely position of supporting Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat who previously served as Obama's chief of staff. Emanuel has been harshly criticized by union officials, who accuse the mayor of reneging on promises made to teachers, police officers and other civil servants.
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"I am disappointed by the decision of the Chicago Teachers Union to turn its back on not only a city negotiating in good faith but also the hundreds of thousands of children relying on the city's public schools to provide them a safe place to receive a strong education," Romney wrote Monday, adding that teachers unions were putting self-interest ahead of students.
Romney went on to assert that Obama "has chosen his side in this fight," pointing out that Vice President Joe Biden told a teachers' union in 2011 "you should have no doubt about my affection for you and the President's commitment to you."
"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," Romney concluded.
Asked at a press conference Monday about Romney's statement, Emanuel said that while he "appreciated" Romney's support of teachers and students, he did not view the Republican candidate's remarks as useful.
"While I appreciate his lip service, what really counts is what we're doing here and I don't give two hoots about national comments scoring political points or trying to embarrass or whatever the president," Emanuel said.
At the White House briefing Monday, press secretary Jay Carney said Obama had yet to make an assessment on the Chicago teachers' strike, but that the president's "principle concern is for the students and his principle concern is for the students and families who are affected by the situation."
Obama's campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt took a more critical approach Monday, writing on Twitter there were "Chuckles across Chicago as Romney tries to reinvent himself as the city's biggest cheerleader after attacking it for the past year."
"Romney apparently believes that fewer teachers and larger classrooms is the solution to education challenges," LaBolt wrote in a second tweet.
The two presidential candidates have long been at odds over some aspects of education policy, with Romney claiming Obama is too concerned with placating teachers' unions, which are major sources of Democratic campaign cash, and Obama saying Romney is wrong on his position that smaller class sizes aren't necessarily advantageous to better learning.