WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 23: Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts… (Mario Tama / Getty Images )
WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney used a Latino business gathering as a forum to assail President Obama’s leadership of the economy and blame teachers unions for problems facing American education.
The Republican presidential candidate is making education the focus of his brief public campaign schedule this week. On Thursday, he will tour a charter school in Philadelphia and lead a discussion on education in the most heavily Democratic part of that swing state.
In Washington on Wednesday, Romney assured Latino businessmen and women that they would never have to “wake up every day, wondering if the president is on your side.”
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Obama, he charged, “has decided to attack success,” apparently referring to attack ads by the president’s reelection campaign that targeted Romney’s business record as an executive of Bain Capital, a private investment firm.
“It’s no wonder so many of his own supporters are calling on him to stop this war on job creators,” Romney told a Latino Coalition audience of 250 at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquarters. Some Obama backers have criticized the ads, most notably Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who called them “nauseating.”
A new national opinion survey, released Wednesday, showed Romney trailing far behind Obama among Latino voters. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll gave Obama a 61% to 27% lead over Romney among Latinos.
Romney’s hard-line stance on immigration, which he promoted during the GOP primaries, has complicated his efforts to woo Latino voters. The former governor has acknowledged that his party needs to do more to reach out to Latinos on that issue.
But he avoided direct mention of immigration in his remarks at the Latino luncheon. Instead, Romney repeated his support for school choice and charter schools, which Obama also supports.
The Republican candidate sharply criticized the Obama administration for its decision to back away from a voucher program that allows thousands of children to attend private schools in Washington. And he said that, as president, he’d “break the political logjam” that has prevented reform of the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind school law; Obama has sought to circumvent the stalemate by granting waivers freeing states from some of the strictest provisions of the law.
Romney promised to “reduce federal micromanagement” of local education while providing parents with easy-to-understand report cards about the quality of their child’s school. He blamed the “outsized influence” of teachers unions in campaigns and elections for frustrating efforts to improve school quality.
“President Obama has been unable to stand up to union bosses and unwilling to stand up for our kids,” Romney charged, citing hundreds of millions of dollars contributed by teachers unions to Democratic campaigns as the cause.
“We have to stop putting campaign cash ahead of our kids,” he said to applause.
The Obama campaign, in advance of Romney’s remarks, said the GOP challenger’s proposals would undermine education by putting tax cuts for the wealthy ahead of more money for schools. Romney has not proposed any new spending for education, his campaign said.
During Romney’s term as governor of Massachusetts, “class sizes increased and thousands of teachers were laid off, college costs skyrocketed, and graduation rates at community colleges lagged behind the national average,” Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said in a statement. The choice for voters in November, she said, will be between Obama, “who has made critical investments in and reforms to education that have improved schools and made college more affordable, and Mitt Romney, whose Romney Economics would prioritize tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires over investments in our future.”