CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the Chicago Teachers Union vote to authorize a strike is a “huge number,” but he says he wants to focus on improving schools, and what an independent arbitrator might do to avoid a strike.

The union said Monday that 90 percent of teachers had voted to authorize a strike — well more than the 75 percent needed to authorize a walkout, should contract talks break down.

Asked for his reaction on Tuesday, the mayor said, “It’s a huge number, as is the shortest school day and the shortest school year of any major city in the country.”

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports

In other words, Emanuel is sticking to his talking points of reforms to institute a longer school day and longer school year.

He also says he wants both sides to concentrate on the work of an independent fact-finding panel, which will issue a report this summer that could serve as the basis for a contract compromise.

“Focus your energy and time there to make sure our kids and our teachers are winners,” Emanuel said.

The mayor made his comments as he announced a new library in the Back of the Yards area – at a new high school – a library to be shared with the neighborhood.