Emanuel, President Obama's chief of staff from 2009-2010, is locked in a bitter struggle with Chicago's powerful union over negotiations surrounding a new contract, and Tuesday marks the second day of strikes by approximately 26,000 teachers.
According to the Associated Press, about 11,000 students attended 144 schools kept open by the district, and approximately 7,000 more participated in activities at places like churches and libraries.
At a fundraiser in Portland, Oregon Monday night, Ryan called the strike "unnecessary and wrong" and said that he would "stand" with the outspoken Democratic mayor.
"I've known Rahm Emanuel for years," Ryan said. "He's a former colleague of mine. Rahm and I have not agreed on every issue or on a lot of issues, but Mayor Emanuel is right today in saying that this teacher's union strike is unnecessary and wrong. We know that Rahm is not going to support our campaign, but on this issue and this day we stand with Mayor Rahm Emanuel."
Among the concessions Emanuel is demanding from the union, according to the New York Times, are tenure evaluations based on student test performance and the annulment of a promise for a 4 percent raise. Teachers, meanwhile, are pushing for provisions to reinstate teachers who work in schools that have been shut down.
"We stand with the children and we stand with the families and the parents of Chicago because education reform, that's a bipartisan issue," said Ryan. "This does not have to divide the two parties."
Despite his rhetoric, Ryan quickly pivoted to attacks on Mr. Obama, whom he accused of being "ambiguous," and whom Ryan suggested sides with "the union" over "children and parents."
"Where does President Obama stand?" Ryan asked. "Does he stand with his former Chief of Staff Mayor Rahm Emanuel, with the children and the parents, or does he stand with the union? On issues like this, we need to speak out and be really clear. In a Romney-Ryan administration we will not be ambiguous, we will stand with education reform, we will champion bipartisan education reforms."
He added: "This is a critical lynchpin to the future of our country, to our economy, to make sure that our children go to the best possible school, and that education reforms revolve around the parents and the child, not the special interest group. This is something that's critical for all of us."
Mr. Obama has not directly addressed the Chicago strike, but he has both supported unions in the past and supported policies that upset them. On Monday, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt mocked Romney's newfound status as Chicago's "biggest cheerleader after attacking it for the past year" and for "apparently believ[ing] that fewer teachers and larger classrooms is the solution to education challenges."
Still, the strike poses a political conundrum for the president just weeks before a presidential election in which it will rely heavily on the financial and organizing support o the union.
On Monday, Romney accused the president of siding with teachers who were turning their backs on students, a comment Emanuel quickly wrote off as "lip service."