Romney also said that he “understands the interests of the teachers’ unions…and they have every right to represent their members in the way they think is best, but we have every right, in fact, to say, ‘no,’ this is what we want to do, which is in the best interest of our children.” Romney continued, “education is about teachers, great leadership and parents. And the union has a different objective. I understand; it’s fine for them to promote it. It’s not fine for us to go along with it.” Later during the audience questions, Governor Romney referenced the successful reforms Florida has been able to implement because former Governor Jeb Bush stood up to the unions and placed student interests first.
Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, addresses the Education Nation 2012 Summit
Mr. Williams also asked Governor Romney about teacher salaries and student performance, a key issue in the Chicago strike. Although he doesn’t believe there should be a fixed percentage of compensation based on student performance, he said he did believe “there should be some connection between the capacity of teachers to move students from grade level to grade level and their compensation.” He continued, that those teachers who are consistently able to improve students “a full grade by the end of the year…should be able to be more highly compensated.” On the other hand, he believes that those teachers who are not able to do so should “either be able to develop that skill or perhaps find another path in the education world or another career all together.” While President Obama might agree with that last statement, he has still been supportive of the unions that prevent the firing of bad teachers through tenure.
Governor Romney, however, recognizes that unions have objectives contrary to the students’ interests, and what is in the best interest of the students is to provide them with great teachers. As Romney said, “I think we know the answer as to what it takes to fix our schools, is to invest in great teachers. Teachers are the answer.” And we are doing a disservice to both teachers and students by not investing enough in our teachers. Romney said that to remedy this problem, we should look to what other countries do to attract and promote great teachers. He noted a study done by The McKinsey Institute that found that countries, like Finland, that have outstanding public education systems draw teachers from the top 5 or 10 percent of college graduates. These countries are able to do so by offering great starting salaries that attract the best applicants, an area the U.S. could certainly improve in.
Many of the top college graduates in the U.S. go on to professions that pay more, and sometimes offer a bit more prestige. Romney said that in the U.S. we should treat teaching in the same way, as a profession like lawyers and doctors. In doing so, Romney stated that we should also compensate and reward the very best, and promote teachers based on skills saying, “they have to change lives in the classroom as opposed to tenure alone.” Unfortunately, though, as Romney stated, “the U.S. is too focused on pensions and tenure and not sufficiently focused on starting salaries and a system that promotes teachers based upon their success in the classroom.”
Teachers definitely are the answer to our education problems; but it’s not all teachers, it is great teachers that are rewarded on performance. It is in students’ best interest to give them great teachers, and we should always remember that the students need to come first. However, teachers unions have a different objective; they put teachers ahead of students, especially when they protect those teachers who are unable to help their students grow. And unions are able to do so due to their political relationship with Democrats, which creates a huge conflict of interest and further helps slow down reforms. But, Romney said, it’s ok to say “no” to the unions, and it isn’t “teacher-bashing” to do so.