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Candidate Views At Education Nation

“Romney, Obama Clash Over Education”
by Laura Meckler
Wall Street Journal
September 25, 2012

The presidential candidates offered clashing views on education, with Republican Mitt Romney delivering some of his harshest judgments on teacher unions and President Barack Obama defending them.

Mr. Obama attacked Mr. Romney for wanting to cut education spending, while Mr. Romney said it’s wrong to saddle young people with more federal debt. The conflicting views came in separate interviews for NBC’s Education Nation summit, which covered a range of education topics.

“The teachers union has a responsibility to care for the interests of the teachers. And the head of the national teachers’ union said at one point, ‘We don’t care about kids. We care about the teachers.’ That’s their right,” Mr. Romney said.

He was referring to a 2009 speech by the National Education Association’s former general counsel, Bob Chanin, who was making a different point. He wasn’t suggesting that the union doesn’t care about children, but arguing that the NEA is an effective advocate for its point of view “not because we care about children” but because of the union’s political power.

Mr. Obama, in his interview taped over the weekend, said, “I think Gov. Romney and a number of folks try to politicize the issue and do a lot of teacher bashing.”

“When I meet teachers all across the country, they are so devoted, so dedicated to their kids,” he said.

The Obama administration has taken some heat from unions by pushing for more charter schools and seeking to tie compensation to student achievement. Mr. Obama described that as trying to “break through this left-right, conservative-liberal gridlock.”

Mr. Obama said that education reform isn’t enough, though, and must be accompanied by adequate public spending. On the campaign trail, he often mentions education as one of the areas where the nation should spend more to build for the future.

“This is a big argument and a big difference that I’ve got with Gov. Romney in this election, because they talk a good game about reform, but when you actually look at their budgets, they’re talking about slashing our investment in education by 20, 25%,” he said.

Mr. Romney didn’t dispute that he wants to limit government spending.

“I’m not looking for more federal spending. I mean, I know it is the nature of politics for someone in my position to promise more free stuff,” he said. But “I care so much about our kids that I don’t want to saddle them with trillions on trillions of dollars of debt.”

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