PHILADELPHIA, PA - While Mitt Romney sat in with elementary kids for a lesson in alliteration at Universal Bluford Charter school in an impoverished Philadelphia neighborhood, residents and Mayor Michael Nutter had a lesson in running for office they wanted to teach the GOP presumptive nominee.
"Instead of just talking at the school and getting back on his huge bus, he should come out, he should walk 60th Street, he should talk to folks who are out here that are mad so maybe he could understand how real Americans, those that live here in urban America, the issues that are important to us," Nutter said at a press conference organized by the Obama campaign just outside the school grounds.
"I don't know that a one-day experience in the heart of West Philadelphia is enough to get you ready to run the United States of America," he continued, flanked by District Attorney, Seth Williams.
Nearly 40 people from the community gathered to protest, chanting "four more years" on the school corner holding signs reading "If Mitt Romney Wins, the Kids Lose", and "Obama 2012" re-election campaign posters.
Philadelphia Mayor stood before a podium adorned with Obama re-election signage and slammed Romney's education policy, saying his Massachusetts record is not a "model for the nation," and dubbed him "wrong-way Romney"
Continuing his second day of education focused events, Romney's visit to the charter school in a predominantly African American neighborhood marks the first campaign visit with grammar school kids and one of few where he's ventured into Democrat territory in a plighted urban setting.
Before touring the students' classrooms, he first sat down for a round table with Universal Bluford Charter School teachers and administrators, as well as educational leaders in the community. Highlighting the tenants of his education policy unveiled this week, the group of educators received him affably, though they didn't take long to counter his position that class size does not matter.
"I can't think of any teacher in the whole time I have been teaching, 13 years, who would say that more students [in the classroom] would benefit. And I can't think of a parent that would say I would like my teacher to be in a room with a lot of kids and only one teacher." He continued. "So I'm wondering where this research comes from?"
Romney often cites a study done by the McKinsey Global Institute to argue that class size has little bearing on the success rate of students, instead putting emphasis on the quality of teachers and involvement of parents. Miller fired back with a study of his own. He cited a University of Tennessee study that concluded smaller classes in the primary years of learning have an impact on the educational development of students.
"If you have small classes in those primary years, those most important years, that's what makes the difference. And what it is, you go to school from first to third grade you learn to read. From third grade on, you read to learn. So if you don't get that reading piece you never catch up. That's where really is the most critical. And then once you do that, once you have kids kind of stabilized and everybody is on the same page, you can have kind of bigger classes," he countered.
The Obama campaign didn't waste any time capitalizing on the clash in views, issuing a statement calling into question Romney's "commonsense," and pointing to his record in Massachusetts claiming "students suffered through larger class sizes, laid-off teachers, and in one year alone, the second-largest per pupil cut in the entire nation," said Obama Campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith.
The statement went on to link Romney's education policies with the Obama camp's portrayal of his private sector days as a corporate raider.
"Now, he's promising to make deep cuts to education-leading to larger class sizes and fewer teachers-in order to fund his budget-busting tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. As we've seen throughout Mitt Romney's career in both the private and public sectors, Romney Economics is all about the short-term: helping the wealthiest prosper by any means necessary, even if that means undermining workers, middle-class families, students and our economic competitiveness."