LAKE FOREST, Ill. - Mitt Romney tonight called on President Obama to take a stand on the Chicago Teacher's Union strike, which is about to enter its second day in which 400,000 students will be shut out of classes, the candidate taking a break from a high-dollar fundraiser to criticize the president.
"Well, I think the president ought to stand up and say we that we ought to put the kids first in this country and the teacher's union goes behind," Romney said during a radio interview with conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt. "Look I think we've gotta help the kids, help their parents, help the teachers, but the teacher's union is opposed to many of the reforms in education that we know are critical to the success of our kids."
Obama did not make a public statement or issue a statement on the strike today, but White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters during a briefing that Obama had "not expressed any opinion or made any assessment" about the strike and that the White House believes that the entities involved in the dispute "can and should work it out."
"I haven't had that discussion with either [Education] Secretary [Arne] Duncan or the president," Carney said. "I think that we believe that both sides ought to - and we hope they do - resolve this is a way that recognizes that it is the interest of Chicago's children that must be preeminent as they work it out. But I don't have any predictions for where it's going to go. We just simply hope that it gets resolved.
"I can tell you that this president has pursued an education policy that has been a notable success, and a notable bipartisan success, under the president's and Secretary Duncan's leadership," Carney said. "And he'll continue to do that because he believes, as he says frequently, that investing in education now pays enormous economic dividends later. It is integral to our economic future, and that's why he's made it such an important part of his domestic policy agenda."
But tonight Romney used the opportunity to tout his own talking points on education, saying that the standards for students have to be raised in the United States and called on teachers to face evaluations that would reward them "for doing an excellent job" and would "make sure teachers are also given an opportunity to be evaluated based upon the capabilities of their students."
"Look, we know what it takes to fix our schools and this strike in Chicago is a setting where I think you need to stand up and say look, I'm with the kids and I'm with their parents and I'm not with the teacher union," said Romney, who has been a fierce critic of teacher's unions, in May dubbing the group, "the clearest example of a group that has lost its way."
Hewitt asked Romney to imagine what Obama might say if asked directly about the strike, the host adding his own commentary that the president rarely takes questions from the press, giving the candidate an opportunity to tweak the president's media strategy.
"He doesn't take questions, or questions who ask real serious inquiry," said Romney, making a veiled reference to a recent string of interviews Obama did with entertainment programs.
"The answer is the president does have an impact on the attitude of the nation," Romney said. "I just happen to think that it's critical for our kids to get the kind of education to prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow. And as president, I will stand up and say look, these teachers unions are not acting in the - with the best interest of the kids in mind. And I think we should, should do that. And I've indicated in my education reform plan, by the way Hugh, that all federal dollars I will attach to the students, allowing the students to go to the school of their choice as opposed to having the government tell them where they have to go to school."
Romney did not campaign in Illinois, but opened up the arrival of his charter flight to the local press before heading to a suburban fundraiser that local reports estimate will raise $3 million for Romney's campaign.