Vice President Joe Biden addressed the American Federation of Teachers convention in Detroit, Michigan last Sunday, and took the opportunity to question the Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s commitment to public school education. Biden, who addressed the 2,500 delegates, said that Romney’s views on education clearly show that he doesn’t regard public education as a priority and thinks of teachers as a problem rather an allies in creating opportunity for America’s kids.
Biden’s speech painted Romney as someone looking to pad the wallets of the wealthy at the expense of educational funding. He added that based on the statements made by both Romney and other GOP candidates during the primary debates, they do not consider public education as a good investment for the future.
A spokesman for Romney’s campaign accused Biden — and President Barack Obama — of kowtowing to teachers unions. “Instead of putting students first, this administration has put the union bosses that fund their political campaigns ahead of what’s best for our children,” said spokesman Sean Fitzpatrick.
“Mitt Romney has the plan and record to put students first and make sure that they have a job waiting for them when they graduate,” Fitzpatrick said.
Biden reminded the delegates that those who have fond memories of the Republican party from the days of their parents and grandparents will not find a home in the GOP of today. Today’s GOP, he said, is the party that is looking to cut funding to programs like Head Start and the grant and loan initiatives that allow students from low-income families afford a college education.
This sentiment echoed remarks delivered by the AFT President Randi Weingarten to the convention attendees Friday night. She said that the political efforts to gut the power of the unions in states around the country were a direct threat to the well-being of American teachers.
Randi Weingarten said that “a wave of anti-union, anti-public education initiatives” has surfaced as the U.S. struggles to overcome the worst downturn since the Great Depression.
She says that’s forced teachers unions “to go on the defensive over and over again.”
Weingarten says she’s meeting Friday with Detroit Public Schools emergency manager Roy Roberts to challenge the mass layoff of teachers and the imposition of pay and benefit cuts.
The AFT represents 1.5 million teachers. It’s the nation’s second-largest teachers union behind the 3.2 million-member National Education Association.