If you Google "Mitt Romney out of touch," search results include headlines on workers, Latinos and women. Given his rhetoric, it's only a matter of time before we can add "educators" to the list.
In May, Romney introduced his plan for overhauling education with a speech where he blamed teachers -- and their unions -- for most of the problems in our schools. This thread continued at the Republican National Convention, where New Jersey governor and keynote speaker Chris Christie bashed teachers unions. Most recently Romney slammed teachers in Chicago.
Educators recognize this as a teachable moment. The lesson is that Romney and his party are badly out of step with what's happening in education today. They might believe that attacking educators will help them score political points, but it won't help our students.
Like the outdated concept of "us vs. them," the Romney education platform would be a blast from the past. He wants to divert funds from public schools to private school vouchers, an idea that voters have consistently rejected. He questions the value of smaller classes that allow for more individual instruction to students. As governor of Massachusetts, he cut funding for pre-K programs and vetoed funds for kindergarten expansion.
While Romney gets his ideas from the past, President Obama looks to the future, with a vision for transforming our public schools so they serve the needs of students in the 21st century. In accepting his party's nomination at the Democratic National Convention, the president outlined several education policy goals: recruit more math and science teachers, improve early childhood education and cut student loan costs in half over 10 years.
To be candid, some of the president's education policies have not been popular with all of our members. Despite some reservations, some of our local affiliates have stepped outside their comfort zones to join initiatives such as Race to the Top, and have agreed to comprehensive new systems of evaluation, compensation and professional development. They're doing their best to make these ideas work for students.
NEA surveys show that most of our 3 million-plus members support the president -- not because he has followed our advice on every issue, but because he shares our commitment to public education as an institution that made our nation strong.
In a historic move, the president issued a policy directive protecting undocumented youth from deportation and paving the way to a diploma and a brighter future for DREAMers. He increased college Pell Grants; focused on transforming the schools where many children of poverty struggle to learn; and under his leadership, local districts received federal funds to keep 450,000 educators working for their students.
Educators always believe that our issue is important, but this election could well determine the future of public education in the U.S. State and local cuts in education funding have already wiped out programs, increased class sizes and pushed college costs beyond the reach of many families.
This election offers a clear choice between two different visions for our nation. President Obama believes in equal opportunity and shares the concerns of the middle class. Mr. Romney would slam shut the door of opportunity for millions of students. Worst of all, he would turn his back on the kind of teamwork our students need. That's why President Obama is the best choice for public education in 2012.
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