By Jay Levine

(CBS) — On the first day of school for CPS, Karen Lewis praised new programs or policies which led to better test scores, graduation rates and especially student safety, but claimed they were started long before Mayor Emanuel took office.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine says Lewis is walking a fine line between labor leader and mayoral candidate

“We have known what problems exist for a very long time and when you come in Johnny-come-lately and wanna take credit for something you didn’t do, I think we should all have problems with that,” Lewis said.

She carefully avoided mentioning his name, claiming safe passage actually began during the Daley administration, though not to the extent it exists today. Just last year, at a rally in the Loop, a teachers union officer said the $8 million spent on safe passage would be better used to save schools from closing.

Lewis today seemed trapped between the worlds of politics and labor, telling us this morning, “I think the biggest challenge for CPS teachers this year is to realize this is the end of a contract year.”

When asked by Levine if that is really the biggest challenge or if it is educating students, Lewis responded, “That’s not a challenge for us at all. That’s exactly what we do.”

Lewis’ challenge as another school year begins is explaining to voters how she could jump from one side of the bargaining table to the other, from bargaining for teachers to negotiating against them.

“I’m not gonna be penned into one corner about this and if anyone thinks that I can only do one thing that’s really unfortunate because that’s not what teachers do.”

CBS 2 started checking on Lewis’ criticism of the mayor who shall not be named and found that while he may not have started the program, the number of schools with safe passage protection has nearly quadrupled since he took office.

They may not be mentioning each other’s names now, but if she decides to take him on, you can expect the mayor to use his $8 million campaign warchest to tell his side of the story.

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