(NEW YORK) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney Tuesday refused to divulge whether he would include Democrats in his cabinet like Education Secretary Arne Duncan, should he win the White House in November.
“I haven’t chosen cabinet secretaries,” Romney said when asked by Brian Williams during NBC’s “Education Nation” summit in New York City. “I’m not putting anybody on my cabinet right now … It’s a little presumptuous of me, but just a little.”
Romney in the past has praised Obama’s education secretary and did so Tuesday too while highlighting areas where he doesn’t support everything that Duncan has done in the Obama administration.
“He wants to promote at the same time a national curriculum. I prefer to let states and communities decide what their own curriculum will be, but that’s, that’s his choice,” Romney said. “But I do believe his focus on more choice and creating opportunities for the best teachers to be better compensated is a good idea.”
The forum Tuesday at the New York Public Library also featured a taped interview with President Obama speaking about education, drawing another side-by-side comparison of the candidates.
Romney was asked in light of the Chicago teachers strike this month if teachers should be allowed to strike.
“I don’t know that I would prevent teachers from being able to strike,” he answered. “I just think the most important aspect in being able to have a productive relationship between the teachers’ unions and the districts and the states that they’re dealing with is that the person sitting across the table from them should not have received the largest campaign contributions from the teachers’ union itself. ”
Romney noted that he didn’t mean to be “terribly partisan,” alluding to President Obama’s support from the teachers union, “but I kind of am.”
He said this is a conflict of interest in his book that should be addressed.
“The largest contributors to the Democratic Party are the teachers’ unions, the federal teachers’ unions, and so if they can elect someone, then that person is supposed to be representing the public, vis-à-vis the teachers’ union, but actually most for their money came from the teachers’ union,” he said. “I do believe we have to have a recognition that the person sitting across the table is representing the public and the students, not the teachers’ union.”
Romney’s own education was targeted during the course of the summit, as he was asked if the nation owes every student the equivalent of the education he received growing up in suburban Detroit private school as a high school student.
“I reject the idea that everybody has to have a, if you will, a Harvard-expense level degree in order to be successful,” Romney replied. “I realize it’s not just money, that it is instead a focus on how you spend the money, attracting the best and brightest in the profession, promoting the very best, measuring the performance of students, giving his students the incentive to excel.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Tal Kopan, John Berman and Sunlen Serfaty, CNN Newswire
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Ruth Brown and Lis Stewart, Idaho Press-Tribune