Romney uses debate to attack educator-led unions — again


by Félix Pérez

The focus of last night’s presidential debate might have been foreign policy, but Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney still managed to find time to attack educator-led unions while professing his “love” for teachers.

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“[W]e’re going to have to . . . finally put the parents and the teachers and the kids first, and the teachers’ unions going to have to go behind,” said the former Massachusetts governor. He later added, “Look, I love to — I love teachers.”

Romney’s proclaimed love of teachers came in response to President Barack Obama’s pledge to recruit and prepare 100,000 math and science teachers and train 2 million Americans at community colleges.

Romney’s attempt to drive a wedge between teachers and the organizations they created to give them a voice on behalf of students is not new.  Not surprisingly, educators are none too pleased.

“Mitt Romney claims he loves teachers on the one hand, while attacking teachers’ unions on the other. How he manages to separate educators from their unions is baffling,” said Dennis Van Roekel, an Arizona high school math teacher with more than two decades of classroom experience.

Added Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association:

President Barack Obama consistently has shown his support for educators, not just with words but actions that saved millions of educators’ jobs, supported millions of students by keeping class sizes smaller and helped assure our international competitiveness by fighting for great public schools for every student.

President Obama chastised Romney for his repeated claim that class size does not influence student performance.

“When you were asked about reduced class sizes, you said class sizes don’t make a difference. But I tell you, if you talk to teachers, they will tell you it does make a difference.

“And the kinds of budget proposals that you’ve put forward, when we don’t ask either you or me to pay a dime more in terms of reducing the deficit, but instead we slash support for education, that’s undermining our long-term competitiveness,” said President Obama.


Romney responded by touting his education record in Massachusetts, not mentioning that the state’s educator workforce is highly unionized. As governor, Romney cut funding for special education, early education and higher education.

Retired Massachusetts teacher Steve Gorrie remembers all too well Romney’s education record. “Governor Romney says he believes that quality education is key in helping developing countries thrive, yet his record belies this. When he was governor, he cut funding for education across the board, especially for early childhood, special and higher education.”

Gorrie told Education Votes, “Governor Romney’s claims about Massachusetts’ number one ranking in education don’t tell the whole story. Although Massachusetts was number one and continues to be so, education reform was well under way before he came into office. He takes far too much credit for what was done before and after his tenure as governor.”

Reader Comments

  1. If any of you have children of ANY age, you know that the fewer students we can put into a classroom, the more effectively and powerfully the teacher is able to work with each of them. If you understand that education of your child is one of the greatest importances in our USA, then you also know that we scrape and save to help them get through college, but with government backed scholarships, we can have a little bit of much needed support. Obama has spoken to educators and knows these issues are SO important!
    Who knows what Romney might or might not do?…..He is trying to “please” us all…and in the meantime, has made me very skeptical. VOTE for Obama, he is an education backer and he too has kids of his own.

  2. Obama said he would hire more teachers. Doesn’t he know that local school boards, not tha president of the United States, hire teachers? The sooner the federal government gets out of public education, the better. I can’t wait for a new administration to get our economy moving again, so local school boards will have the revenues they need to hire teachers and provide the kind of education all children deserve.

    1. Wendell, why do you think we have lost 9 million jobs, have witnessed 50,000 plants closings in favor of offshoring, and have witnessed a declining middle class over the past 30 years, a phenomenon that has caused downward pressure on wages to compete in a “global economy” for jobs, and reduced disposable income to boost the consumer retail market, a net decline in income tax from a declining middle class, an average of $600 BILLION in trade deficits over the past 10 years resulting in a GDP that barely operates our government because of the resultant decimation of the tax revenue base which for the past 50 years, has depended on a vital middle class with a decent wage?

    2. Wendell,
      Under a Romney administration, where do you think that all of this revenue will come from. It is always interesting to me when people say no more big government when it comes to small business, education and taxes; but when we talk about womens health and choices they are fine with the government having a say. What hypocrisy.

  3. I agree with Debbie. I have taught for the past 23 years; 11 in my current state; 5 in Texas; 5 in Nevada and 2 with the Department of Defense. In my 23 years of teaching I have never ever been paid for a summer vacation. My salary is for working August -June and is paid over the course of a year, as directed by the board of education. I do not get paid for parent-teacher conferences; grading papers at home; preparing authentic lesson plans, report cards, and extra curricular activities. While at school, not only do we provide your child with a quality education, but in my county we attend numerous meetings before, during and after school to include : professional development workshops for the new common core curriculum, which is to be implemented in 2013; grade level meetings weekly; staff and proffesional development meetings twice a month; Individual Education Plan (IEP’s) meetings; school improvement meetings; professional development meetings twice a month with the language arts and math specialists. Leaving teachers in my county with maybe 15 minutes in a 7.5 hour day to scarf down their lunch, while making copies; returning phone calls to parents; meeting with parents who want a conference and handling discipline issues.

    Not to mention that we have not had a pay raise, cost of living increase and/or step increment over the past three years. The state has recently increased our mandatory contribution to our retirement account to 6%. Even though there is a strong possiblity that we will not receive our contributions or a portion of those when we reach retirement in the next 10 years. Teachers have often been referred to as “glorified babysitters”, if we were you wouldn’t hear us complain about the hours we work; the papers we grade; the subjects we teach academic and life skills. As a babysitter we would make (this is a low estimate) $7/hour/child/7.5 hours a day= $1260/day (24 kids in a class) X 185 days =$233,100. After working 23 years and having a masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction, I can honestly say I don’t make close to have of a “glorified babysitters” school year salary.

    As for Govenor Romney’s claim that his state is number one in education, may have been accurate when he was in office. However during the last four years Maryland has been name #1 by the Washington Post, NEA and other sources.

    Please stop making uninformed statements and untrue statements about our countries educators.

  4. I am sure Mr. Romney LOVES TEACHERS. After all he sends his kids to private schoolS with tuition running into the thousands. Yes, I do believe that Mr. Romney LOVES TEACHERS. He JUST DID NOT FINISH HIS SENTENCE. :: I LOVE ALL TEACHERS WHO ARE NOT UNION MEMBERS AND WANT TO TEACH FOR $10.00 DOLLARS AN HOUR WITHOUT ANY BENEFITS””. NOW THIS I BELIEVE! There is no use trying to decide upon the ‘worth’ of a teacher. We ‘trust’ the greatest asset we have, our children, to teachers.. Do we/ you truly want an inexperienced person to teach ‘30-40 + students in a class, work only 6 hours a day, get paid in the summer for not working, days off, who take care of our children, with illnesses, mental problems. physical problems, attitudes ( OFTEN from parents) cold, hungry, some abused, some frightened and lately a large number of students entering our schools WHO speak no level of English and so on. Yes, a ten dollar a hour job seems appropriate.
    Yes, I have family members and friends in the teaching profession and am aware of what some of the ‘public’ think of their job. However, I just cannot understand why if the teaching preparation which only costs about $125,000.00 to get , if it is so lucrative and easy, why are not those complaining entering the teaching force? Maybe that is the 8th. wonder of the world.
    l think the greatest ‘thing’ we can give our children is the best education we can with qualified and compassionate staff who work 10-12 hours a day, weekends, summers, with NO PAY, continue their education and training and LOVE THEIR JOB AND THEIR STUDENTS.
    I wish Mr. Romney well in his pursuit and desire to further education for our children.

    1. I don’t know who you have been talking to but, teachers have NEVER received a paid summer day in the history of education. I have been a teacher for 30 years and I have NEVER received a paid vacation day. All the other state workers I know get vacation days. Teachers do not. The pay I receive in June and July was worked out from Jan.- June. I get paid for 185 days period. The week Spent in the classroom before the school year is officially began is unpaid. The duty I do before school, and at ball games and at parent teacher conferences is donated time. The extra days we work at after school developing curriculum, coaching school teams and tutoring is UNPAID TIME. The matching funds that my employer is supposed do have contributed to my retirement fund has NEVER been added to my account and I will be paying a higher percent starting in 2013. My employer will still not contribute their share to my retirement fund. I haven’t had so much as a 1% cost of living pay increase in five years and since my retirement is based on average pay it has cost me $500/ month for the rest of my life. So please don’t make false and uneducated statements about things you know little to nothing of.

  5. I’m assuming that those of you complaining about your local, state, or national education association are active members who are involved in negotiations and political action. Sitting at home and waiting for others to do the work, then complaining when the realities of the situation don’t match what you expect, is ludicrous. Get educated and get involved instead.

  6. Romney and the GOP love to tell us we’re over taxed. However, a study of USA tax rates will disclose that marginal tax rates have been as low over the past 30 yers as they’ve been since before the Great Depression (more on that later).

    Something else happened below the radar: Real output in the (non-farm) business sector increased by 140% between 1980 and 2010. However, real compensation per hour (includes wages, benefits, pensions and insurance) increased by only 38%.
    During the Post WWII decades between 1947 and 1979, Americans shared equally in the increase in output that occurred then. In those 30 years, the income of the bottom 20% increased by 116%, the top 20% by 99% and the middle quintiles increased somewhere within that range.

    Then the world flipped! From 1980 to 2007, the rich took practically all of the increase in income. Over those decades the bottom 20% got only a 15% increase, and the middle three quintiles got an average increase of 25%. The top 20% received an income increase of 95% and the top 1% saw an increase of 261%.

    On top of that, if you are old enough, as I am, to remember the boom years of the Eisenhower and Kennedy years during the 50s and 60s, marginal rates were placed at over 90 percent to discourage the type of wage disparity you see today. To get a tax break the wealthy invested in the best game on the Street, which was USA manufacturing, USA research and development, U.S. treasury bonds, college funds, education bonds, Parks, NASA, philanthropy, etc.

    Since the 1980s marginal rates were slashed from 71% to 28%, long term capital gains and investment tax rates were cut to 15% (half the marginal rates for the upper middle class) lifting investment money to the realm of “untouchable,” while Free Trade Agreements have greased the skids and incentivized our mighty industrial sector to relocate offshore, basically kicking the USA worker to the curb for a larger profit yield tfrom the Chinese workforce ($1.36/hr. avg. wage).

    Now, thanks to FTAs and a tax code that practically incentivizes the offshoring of manufacturing with $30-40 BILLION in loopholes in the tax code to offset liabilities incurred in the set-up costs, including facilities, machinery, equipment, payrolls, etc. on foreign soil, the best game on the Street is no longer USA, but the China derivatives. Meanwhile, corporate profits have EXPLODED! More money is being poured into our legislature and elections (Citizen United= $$$ for influence, Super PACs that allow foreign interests to invest in USA elections…), as our wealthiest citizens and corporations park their vast wealth in offshore accounts to avoid USA taxation with impunity, while the middle class the USA declines.

    Conversely, many corporations are now calling for more taxation, “Tax me!” as more and more corporations are reading the writing on the wall, and that is that the safest most secure and lucrative place for a corporate business address, namely the USA, is in jeopardy, and they seem to want to help preserve the nation that offers liberty and stability. Maybe they realize, Freedom isn’t really free…

  7. I not supporting Romney, I’ll still waiting for the candidate that says they will do something about escalating college costs…not offering more loans…but lower the amount colleges can charge. It’s so closely related to the economy in so many ways!!! I will say that being from Massachusetts, the democrats here have been no ally to teachers except lip service. It is illegal for teachers to strike in this state and under Governor Patrick (Dem) we have lost health care bargaining rights and tenure is soon gone. Where is the MTA in all this? Wisconsin teachers lost their bargaining rights in general and where was Obama? Where was the NEA? I keep paying dues and for what? Public support has turned against teachers and Democrats aren’t doing anything to really stand up for us. The unions aren’t doing anything either except capitulating to people who didn’t hate teachers 10 years ago when the economy was better…back then they felt sorry for us and better than us.

    1. S Murphy, current economic conditions, thanks to our gigantic manufacturing sector being displaced and USA citizens being bumped into the unemployment lines, have turned our “Industrial Belt” of the mid-west into the “Rust Belt” in just 18 years. 50,000 factories and manufacturing facilities have been offshored, an estimated 9 million middle class jobs have been lost to offshoring, and the downward pressure this exerts on wages here has placed the USA lifestyle, we’ve grown accustomed to, in peril, thanks, in my opinion, to Free Trade Agreements, that allow these cheap foreign good to flood our shores, and undersell Made In USA so that the offshoring “multinational” corporations reap record gains as the USA declines Unions and the Dems have to watch their step… BIG $$$ is calling the shots in the halls of congress- a ticky situation…
      See Bill S3816, “Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act (2010) for some perspective on the great sell out of the USA to BIG $$$. See what the Bill contained and how they voted. We are fast becoming, instead of the name: The United States of America, we may in the near future be called, The Divided States of Plutocracy… with a Red Chinese flag flying over our nation’s capitol, God Forbid!

    2. My local union has not done much for me too. This year our local union’s bargaining team negotiated for less furlough days and agreed to increase class sizes. From 29, average class sizes were increase to 32 or 34. We’ve been wondering until the end of the school year last year, if they will ask us to vote keep the same number of furlough days and low class sizes but they did not even ask us to vote. By doing that, 6 of us at the bottom of the seniority list were completely laid off, and lost our tenure after working as subs or being re-hired the past 3 years. In the education code we have priority as subs and can be recalled according to our place in the seniority list for 39 months. Our union forgot about us at the bottom of the seniority list, even if we have worked for the district the past 10 years and paid our dues. Other teachers wanted to keep the furlough days just so that we can have lower class sizes and save jobs. But the bargaining team was just thinking of increasing their take home pay by having less furlough days. I think the bargaining team just thought of their own interests and those with the most seniority. They are united only with those higher on the seniority list. I am really disappointed in myself for counting on our local union that failed to count me in and the others they left to get completely laid off this year. Our local union is a shame to the education profession.

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