On Tuesday, at a New York City Education Nation Summit hosted by NBC News, Republican nominee Mitt Romney voiced his support for education reform, including merit-based pay, and criticized teacher unions for colluding with politicians through campaign donations.
“We simply can’t have a setup where the teachers unions can contribute tens of millions of dollars to the campaigns of politicians and then those politicians, when elected, stand across from them at the bargaining table, supposedly to represent the interests of the kids,” Romney said.
“I think it’s a mistake,” he continued. “I think we’ve got to get the money out of the teachers unions going into campaigns. It’s the wrong way for us to go. We’ve got to separate that.”
Romney discussed the importance of parental involvement in education, as well as the need for tackling the rising cost of higher education. He blasted the presumption that teacher salaries should correlate with the number of years they have worked, highlighting the need for a “good measurement system” to determine pay.
At the event, Romney also questioned the interests of teachers unions, suggesting they have a “different objective.”
“The teachers union has every right to represent their members in the way they think is best for their members. But we have every right to in fact say, ‘No, this is what we want to do, which is in the best interest of our children.'”
President Barack Obama, who also spoke at the summit, saved his sharpest attacks on Romney’s positions for an appearance on the “Today Show” on Tuesday.
“I think Gov. Romney and a number of folks try to politicize the issue and do a lot of teacher-bashing,” Obama said, adding, “You know, I just really get frustrated when I hear teacher-bashing as evidence of reform.”
The president has suggested that Romney would cut education spending, resulting in increasing class sizes and more teachers being fired.
Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg responded to Obama’s “Today Show” attacks late on Tuesday, saying, “Instead of reforming education and putting achievement in the classroom first, President Obama has put politics and his allegiance to the teachers’ unions ahead of student.”