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.”