The Obama campaign blasted presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Friday for his comments on a visit to an inner-city school that smaller class sizes are not a guarantee of a good education.
"I'm not sure what universe he's operating in," said Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, speaking to reporters on behalf of the president's reelection campaign. "It's clear that Mitt Romney is out of touch with reality."
Mr. Romney visited a charter school in west Philadelphia Thursday and, during a roundtable discussion with teachers, noted that a McKinsey Global Institute study found that class size was not a factor when comparing U.S. student performance with high-achieving countries such as Singapore, South Korea and Finland.
"In schools that are the highest-performing in the world, their classroom sizes are about the same as in the United States," Mr. Romney said. "So it's not the classroom size that's driving the success of those school systems."
The former Massachusetts governor emphasized his belief that parental involvement in two-parent households, coupled with great teachers and administrators, is more important to student achievement than class size.
His campaign aides Friday said that Mr. Romney's remarks emphasizing teacher quality over class size put him in the same camp with such noted education figures as former D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Mr. Obama's own secretary of education, Arne Duncan.
"President Obama should be ashamed that his campaign is launching such cheap political attacks at the expense of a serious discussion about education policy. If he actually believes what his campaign is saying, he should fire his education secretary for supporting the same view on class size that Governor Romney is advancing," said Andrea Saul, a Romney spokesperson.
But several of the teachers with whom Mr. Romney met for a roundtable discussion Thursday challenged his assertion.
Mr. Nutter and Obama campaign Policy Director James Kvaal criticized Mr. Romney's education record as governor and said he would take the country's schools in the wrong direction.
"It's loud and clear that Romney doesn't understand the challenges our schools are facing," Mr. Kvaal said.
On Wednesday, Mr. Romney said he supports expanding Washington, D.C.'s school voucher program as part of a broader nationwide push for school choice. He accused President Obama of failing to keep his pledge to reform education because he is too beholden to teachers' unions.
The Republican said unions are the chief impediment to education reform, and that Mr. Obama has repeatedly sided with them instead of with parents and students trapped in failing schools.
"Here we are in the most prosperous nation, but millions of children are getting a Third World education. And America's minority children suffer the most," Mr. Romney said. "This is the civil rights issue of our era. And it's the great challenge of our time."
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