Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich defended on Thursday his controversial plan to have schoolchildren from poor neighborhoods serve as janitors.
"A very poor neighborhood. You have kids that who are under law required to go to school. They have no money. They have no habit of work. What if you paid them part-time in the afternoon to sit in the clerical office, and greet people when they came in?" he said. "What if you paid them to work as an assistant librarian?"
He then discussed his proposal for having poor students serve as janitors. "Let me get down to the janitor thing, and these letters are written that janitorial work is really hard and really dangerous and this and that," he said. "Fine. So what if they became assistant janitors and their job was to mop the floor and clean the bathroom. And you pay them."
Gingrich went on to compare his plan to a project paying children to read books in Georgia.
(Video above via ThinkProgress.)
Last month, at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Gingrich called child labor laws "stupid." "Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school," he said. He repeated the idea on the campaign trail, saying it would be "dramatically less expensive."'
Gingrich said Thursday that his previous comments were "spun out of control" by "the left."
Janitorial work is hardly easy -- the Labor Department notes that janitors may "spend most of their time on their feet, sometimes lifting or pushing heavy furniture or equipment. Many tasks, such as dusting or sweeping, require constant bending, stooping, and stretching."