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CPS Boss Defends Reversal On Cold-Related School Closings, Downplays Union Backlash

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Jay Levine Jay Levine
Jay Levine is the chief correspondent for CBS 2 Chicago. He joined...
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(CBS) – Mayor Rahm Emanuel, just back from a family vacation in Asia, on Monday found himself on the middle of a controversy over today’s CPS school closings.

The mayor backed his schools CEO, who claims her about-face from Friday’s “schools-will-be-open” announcement had nothing to do with pressure from the Chicago Teachers Union to postpone classes.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine fact-checked both sides.

He reports nothing big happens without the mayor’s input. That includes shutting down Chicago Public Schools, which will happen again Tuesday for just the third time in the past 15 years.

Emanuel says he was on the phone with Chicago from Indonesia, multiple times a day. It almost didn’t seem like a vacation, he said during a weather-related news conference.

The mayor had been back just a few hours before plunging right into the city’s emergency response to the bitter cold and persistent snow.

Emanuel deferred to his schools CEO, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, when asked about the last-minute reversal on school closings.

“Actually, I would say to parents that’s not quite  accurate,” said Byrd-Bennett.

She said the forecast worsened over the past couple of days. Actually, there wasn’t much difference in forecasts between Friday and Sunday.

The teachers’ union says something else happened.

“A full weekend of outrage expressed in emails and phone calls and text messages and Twitter made the decision happen,” says Michael Harrington.

CTU President Karen Lewis blasted CPS over the weekend on Twitter for insisting on keeping schools open. She credited public backlash with the reversal, which was announced Sunday.

But Byrd-Bennett said she was unaware of all the fuss, beyond hearing about it in an email.

“I actually was not aware that they had done that,” Byrd-Bennett said.

CPS schools are closed Tuesday as well.

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