by Félix Pérez
Hearing Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney repeat yet again his claim that class size does not matter, voters must be tempted to quote a former president who famously said, “There you go again!”
Romney voiced his class size mantra yesterday at an appearance at the Education Nation Summit hosted by NBC News. The former Massachusetts governor’s pronouncement that class size does not play a role in student achievement flies in the face of decades of research and the first-hand knowledge of educators and parents.
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Referencing a single report from his tenure as governor, Romney said, “. . . within the normal range that exists in schools, it wasn’t classroom size that was driving [student achievement]. Nor was it spending per student.”
Dennis Van Roekel, a high school math teacher from Arizona with more than two decades of classroom experience, said Romney’s remarks indicate he is “oblivious to what is good for our nation’s students.” Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, which represents more than 3 million educators, said:
Romney . . . proved he’s completely out of touch with parents and educators. He continues to insist that class size doesn’t matter.
Romney’s class size comments have become a staple of his on the campaign trail. And it’s a long-held position. Romney wrote in his book No Apology that “the effort to reduce classroom size may actually hurt education more than it helps.”
Doubling down on his campaign rhetoric of vilifying educator unions, Romney suggested limiting educator involvement in the political process. “I don’t mean to be terribly partisan, but . . . I think we’ve got to get the money out of the teachers’ unions going into campaigns.”
In response, Van Roekel said, “Attacking educators and unions like NEA with gross exaggerations about political muscle and with divide-and-conquer tactics is a distraction from having to confront the real questions about his education record as governor of Massachusetts.”
Romney’s campaign tactic of proclaiming his regard for teachers while insulting the organizations they created to advocate for students and the profession is one he trotted out last week at another high profile event, one sponsored by Spanish-language television network Univisión.
Romney’s reflexive antagonism toward educator-led unions erupted at the Education Nation forum when he cut off a New York City parent mid-question (see video clip below). Upon hearing the father cite a poll that found that New York parents support educator unions, Romney interrupted the audience member.
“I don’t believe . . . I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it for a minute . . . And I do know this, that having looked at schools, I know that the teachers’ union has a responsibility to care for the interests of the teachers.”
Calling Romney’s behavior toward the parent disrespectful, Van Roekel said, “Romney says he fundamentally believes in parental involvement, but when a New York City parent tried to say that in fact, recent polling shows that parents across the city of one of the nation’s largest public school systems, support teachers and their unions by a ratio of 3 to 1, Romney rudely cut him off, refusing to listen to facts. This was a disrespectful act unbecoming of someone seeking the highest office in the land. Parents deserve more respect.”