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Campaign Flashback: Romney Praised Obama on Choice, Merit Pay

By Alyson Klein — May 24, 2012 1 min read
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During his education speech yesterday, Gov. Mitt Romney hit President Barack Obama really hard for being in the pocket of the teachers’ unions.

“The President can’t have it both ways,” Romney said. “He can’t talk up reform while indulging groups that block it. He can’t be the voice of disadvantaged school kids and the protector of special interests.”

But, as my colleague Sean Cavanagh points out, one of Romney’s main education surrogates, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush—who wrote the foreword to the campaign’s white paper on education—has actually said very nice things about Obama’s willingness to challenge the unions.

“I am very, very encouraged, and excited that the president has taken on a core constituency of his party, which is the teachers’ union,” Bush said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. (Video here.)

Maybe even more interestingly, just six months ago, Romney himself praised Obama for being strong on merit pay and choice—two issues that really rankle teachers’ unions—in an interview with People magazine that we wrote about here.

Romney’s chief examples of Obama’s coziness with unions are outlined in a white paper on education put forth by his campaign. Exhibit A? That Obama tried to scrap the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. It’s a very small program that benefits just one school district, but it’s symbolically huge—it’s been used a political football by folks on both sides of the aisle.

Exhibit B is the $100 billion for education in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which Romney’s team writes was basically a give-away to the unions “in exchange for their generous support” of Obama and “went to states without concern for reforms and did no more than temporarily prop up a failing status quo.” That’s a criticism that lots of Republicans on Capitol Hill have made, with political success, so it’s sort of surprising that it didn’t make the speech. Too wonky?

Team Romney also writes that Obama’s signature initiative, Race to the Top, had laudable goals, including improving teacher quality and boosting standards. But they note that lots of states haven’t done a good job of following through on their plans. (No mention of Hawaii though.)

For more Edweek coverage of Romney’s announcement, check out Storify.

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