Romney says schools are failing under Obama’s watch

Mitt Romney (REUTERS/Larry Downing)

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney opened a new front on Wednesday in his fight against President Barack Obama, accusing him of presiding over a failing U.S. education system in the grip of union bosses who refuse to accept reforms.

In a rare diversion from his campaign focus on the weak economy, Romney laid out an education plan in a speech that represented his most overt appeal to date to Hispanic voters who have largely sided with the Democratic incumbent.

Although he trails Obama by a huge margin among Hispanics, Romney’s address to a Hispanic business group avoided mentioning a top priority for them: how to overhaul the country’s immigration system.

Romney said millions of American children are getting a “third-world education” and offered proposals that he said would reward teachers for their results instead of their seniority. And he would give parents greater choice of where to send their children to school and take other steps to reduce the influence of powerful teachers’ unions.

“I believe the president must be troubled by the lack of progress since he took office. Most likely, he would have liked to do more. But the teachers unions are one of the Democrats’ biggest donors – and one of the president’s biggest campaign supporters. So, President Obama has been unable to stand up to union bosses – and unwilling to stand up for kids,” Romney said.

Meanwhile, at a series of fundraisers , Obama kept hitting at his opponent’s record as a job-cutting private equity executive – a prime target for his re-election campaign – and touted his own economic plans to “move the country forward.”

“I think he has learned the wrong lessons,” Obama told 550 supporters in a hotel ballroom in Denver, taking aim at what he called Romney’s bad ideas for the U.S. economy while anti-Obama protesters outside held signs reading “Out of Hope, Ready for Change” and “Bye Bye on November 6th.”

“His working assumption is: if CEOs and wealthy investors like him get rich, the rest of us automatically will too,” he said, later presenting a similar message to 1,100 supporters in Redwood City, California, near the tech hub Palo Alto.

“We believe in the free market, we believe in risk-taking and innovation. This whole area is built on risk-taking and innovation. But we also understand that it doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” Obama told the event which featured singer Ben Harper.

“It happens because of outstanding schools and universities, it happens because of a well-regulated financial market, it happens because we have extraordinary infrastructure. It happens for a whole host of reasons. Governor Romney doesn’t seem to understand that.”

MIDDLE CLASS CONCERNS

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, is neck-and-neck with Obama in polls, a prelude to what could be a close vote for the White House in November.

His pivot to education comes during a battle in Washington over student loan programs, with Obama’s Democrats pushing for extending low interest rates for federal loans and Republicans calling for careful spending at a time of high deficits.

Wednesday’s speech also let him challenge a key pillar of the Obama re-election campaign: that the president is more tuned into middle class concerns, like education, than Romney is.

Focusing on school quality could also resonate well with Hispanic voters who are expected to be critical in the November election, especially in swing states like New Mexico, Florida, Colorado, Virginia and North Carolina.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC/Telemundo poll shows Obama leading Romney with Hispanic voters 61 percent to 27 percent, a possible hangover from the Republican primary battle when Romney and other candidates adopted hard-line immigration positions.

Hispanic Republican strategists said Romney was wise to keep his focus on education and the economy on Wednesday, noting that in several polls, Hispanic voters rate those issues well ahead of immigration as the themes they care about most.

“Clearly, it appears that Governor Romney has chosen to focus on what the vast majority of U.S. Hispanics and Latinos feel is of highest priority,” said Daniel Garza, from The Libre Initiative non-profit group.

Standing before a banner that read “A Chance for Every Child,” Romney laid out an education plan that relies heavily on bolstering and improving the No Child Left Behind education law engineered by Obama’s Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.

Romney made more money and more access to charter schools the centerpiece of his platform, but he launched a strong attack on teachers’ unions. “The teachers’ unions are the clearest example of a group that has lost its way,” Romney said.

WELCOME BREAK

On the first day of his Wednesday-Thursday swing through Colorado, California and Iowa, Obama stressed his efforts to improve education and enhance ties between community colleges and businesses.

He told the Denver fundraiser his goal was that “by the end of this decade more of our citizens hold a college degree than any other nation on Earth.” At a private home in Atherton, California, where guests paid $35,800 each to dine with Obama in a Hawaiian-themed tent with a clear roof, he said he “could not be prouder” of his administration’s education reform record.

“A lot of it has to do with making sure that higher education is not a luxury,” Obama said. “We need more engineers, we need more scientists, we need more Stanford grads, but we also need folks who are going to community colleges and are able to get the skills and the training that they need in order to compete for jobs in the 21st century.”

Wednesday’s education speech was a welcome break for Romney, who has faced a barrage of accusations from Democrats that he killed blue-collar jobs when he headed Bain Capital, a firm that bought and restructured companies.

But Romney says the company more than made up for job losses by helping to establish companies that became big employers, like the office supplies store Staples. He told Time magazine business experience gave him savvy to fix the economy and he welcomed scrutiny of his record.

“The fact is that I spent 25 years in the private sector. And that obviously teaches you something that you don’t learn if you haven’t spent any time in the private sector,” he said.

While Romney often polls ahead of Obama on the economy, the president’s foreign policy credentials weigh in his favor compared to the ex-governor, who has little foreign experience.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell criticized Romney for taking advice from foreign policy advisers who are “quite far to the right,” in a sign of lingering strains from his tenure under President George W. Bush.

He also took exception to a recent comment by Romney that Russia is the top U.S. geopolitical threat. “Come on Mitt, think! That isn’t the case,” Powell said.

(Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Writing by Steve Holland; Editing by Philip Barbara, Xavier Briand, Tim Pearce)

Copyright © 2012 Thomson Reuters

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4 Responses to "Romney says schools are failing under Obama’s watch"

  1. griff  May 24, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    Schools have been failing under the federal government’s watch for decades, regardless of who is in the White House.

    Catchy slogans and campaign cliche’s won’t fix it. Blaming Obama won’t fix it, and surely throwing more money (mine and yours) at the problem won’t fix it.

    This government is virtually useless domestically, but we can sure as hell bomb the piss out of any one in the world with the utmost effiency and dedication.

    • Almandine  May 24, 2012 at 10:00 pm

      Touche’

  2. Rick  May 25, 2012 at 8:06 am

    Expanding charter schools and allowing vouchers is a good start. Calling out an intransigent union – of which I am a former member – is right on target.

  3. Sandy Price  May 28, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Academicss has never beem the responsibility of the White House, the Congress or even the State Government. The success of academics starts from the home.

    It is difficult to see the success or failure of our schools until it is too late to set new standards.

    I remember my grandmother making a decision to put me in a private girls boarding school as she saw in me a lazy brain with no interest in anything but surfing. I was smart and made very good grades all the way from first through 7th grade and if there had been homework assignments I would have completed them as I was a proud and popular girl in Santa Monica. I was tested for admittance and failed acceptance. What a terrible shock! In order for me to be accepted I had to give up a summer of swimming and surfing for a series of bus trips from Santa Monica to UCLA where I then had to hike up Beverly Glen to a series of streets leading me to my new academic school. I was in a state of utter shock at what I had to learn before I could enter 8th grade. School had been a breeze but I learned that I might never catch up with the other gals in 8th grade. Math was my weakest point and my choice was to do it; or die trying.

    Pearl Harbor had just brought America into WW2 and the Private School of my grandmother’s choice needed more students so they gave me a chance but only if I boarded after attending summer school. I literally worked my ass off but caught up with the English requirements because reading was a habit from early years. I caught up with the book list even before summer was over. Math was another problem and still is to this day.

    My first week at Westlake was a huge shock as these other girls had been there since first grade. They terrified me and I stayed in my room and refused to mingle with the other girls out of a fear of giving away my ignorance. I did not go home on weekends as I met with many of my teachers who helped me catch up. The extra help saved me from jumping off the roof as the only solution to my inability to make even strong “Cs”

    Four years later I was on the honor roll with all kinds of extra honors in music, and more book reports than necessary and swimming awards. Those were four years of hell and I made up my mind that if I ever had children they would have the best academic background possible. The feeling of being inferior to the other girls seriously had me thinking of suicide. I was not alone. 4 girls in the class ahead of me had also been brought to Westlake and were facing the same horror of being inferior to the other girls. We all passed with flying colors and the last 3 years we bonded as best friends and we still meet every two years as pals. There are only 2 of us left.

    I learned from Westlake and started my older girl with a brand new school in Encino and starting up a Mother’s club we decided on uniforms. I had to wear them and it simplified my getting ready for school. The kids did not object and if there was a difference in family incomes, nobody knew it.

    Looking back at the kids from Santa Monica schools, I could not locate a single one who attended a first rate university. I just spent 3 days with an old friend who was a teacher in the L.A. Unified School district who told me that Santa Monica is now considered high income families and they do better in schools thanks to this income. What crap! Her son chose a home in Manhattan Beach because it is filled with rich people so the schools would be better. My response was “Crap!”

    Only the parents can set the standards for the academics and a quick check up of the Universities and where they get their students indicates the best high schools. I owned property in Santa Monica but their graduates were not found in the best Universities without 2 years in state schools. I discovered that two great private high schools had the best records and I choose from them.

    This meant that homework must never be late, holidays meant catch up reading and no trips to Disneyland or 6 flags if their grades slipped. I worked the Renassiance Faire and the girls found jobs there and if their grades were good, our summers were complete and a lot of fun. I went to work for Will Geer and did costumes for his Shakespeare plays and J.J. was in every play they presented so Summers became English classes.

    My neighbors all drove new cars as did their kids. Not mine who used the Bus system from home to school. My neighbors took their family to Hawaii for summer vacation and mine worked at the Faire or the theater. We lived like church mice as the saying goes and my girls ended up tutoring my neighbor’s kids in English, Math and a foreign language.

    I would never do to my kids what my grandmother put me through and my sympathy for the kids who come from excellent school districts and are put into schools where there are no standards can be a tragedy. Too many kids are bored with school and often start using drugs out of boredom. I was an extreme case and I often send my poor dead grandmother a secret thank you for what she put me through. It had nothing to do with money and everything to do with academics.

    Today, getting though school with passing grades will not get the kids into universities where the job market is supposed to be and if the kids accelerate only in one class, let it be an important class. Mine all through high school was music and every paper I ever wrote was on either a composer or comparing the operas of Verdi and Mozart. Give your kids a speciality for their own research. I will never write a paper on Math!!!

    Do not expect any elected official to take on the missing academics in our schools. The one exception might be Sec. of Defense Leon Penatta. He and his wife took the old Fort Ord in Monterey and opened a college that specialized in preparing the kids for the first rate universities. I think it is now part of the California Unversity group.

    I do know that if a Republican is elected to the White House and the House ends up in Republican members, the Academics to be found in our public schools will be heavy in religious doctrine and a sprinkling of white supremacy racism and homophobia thrown in.

    The choice is with the parents and the choice improves when the parents take on the public schools, or at least supplement the classes with strong academics.

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