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Secretary Duncan: Chicago teachers deal ‘great for children’

“I thought it was a deal at the end of the day that respected teachers, valued them as the true professionals they are, helps to drive education reform forward. I think it’s great for children, great for education and it’s ultimately great for the city,” said Duncan in an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell for the network’s interactive Education Nation summit. 

The strike that took the first seven days of the Chicago Public School’s academic year ended last week with a deal that included pay raises for teachers, a longer school day and academic year and the use of student test scores in teacher evaluations. Duncan called the final result the “right outcome.”

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Duncan said the new contract for teachers was the product of a “tough-minded collaboration.” He said Chicago was a positive example of “union and management coming together to create great public schools, to make sure every single school is a school of choice.”

Duncan, the former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, sidestepped a question about whether teachers could have stayed in the while negotiating their new contract, acknowledging that the process was a “difficult journey.” 

The strike kept 350,000 students out of the classroom and put Democrats in a difficult situation, with a major labor union fighting President Obama’s former chief of staff, current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. 

Republicans used the strike to attack Obama, and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney charged the president with siding with the teachers’ union against the interests of students and families.

But the president refused to take sides in the debate, saying only through his spokesman, Jay Carney, that Obama’s “principal concern” was for those students “affected” by the strike.