Romney, like Obama, didn’t offer any targeted remedy for the problems. He said the key to economic equality for African-Americans lay in improving the education system. He accused the president of being duplicitous for advocating better schools while being politically cozy with teachers unions “that are blocking reform.”
“You can be a voice of disadvantaged public school students or you can be the protector of special interests like the teachers union, but you can’t be both,” Romney said.
He then laid out an education agenda that includes expanding parental choice by linking federal education funds to students so that parents could send their children to any public or charter school. He also would revamp the George W. Bush-era No Child Left Behind act by reducing the federal government’s management role while ensuring that schools are held responsible for results.
Romney’s education pitch did little to sway the NAACP audience. Julian Bond, an NAACP chairman emeritus, said Romney’s remarks were aimed more at white voters than an African-American audience.
“To make them feel better about him and to feel that he is a better person,” Bond said. “He’s saying, ‘Look here, I met with the Negroes. I talked to them. I argued my positions. I don’t think they took them, but at least I showed up.’ ”
Hilary Shelton, the director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau, said Romney didn’t change any minds but “he opened minds to ask harder questions.”
“He recognized many of the challenges of our community,” he said. “The real concern is what are the solutions. We don’t elect people just because they understand we have a problem. We’re looking for your recommendations, your solutions for those problems, solutions that recognize those disparities.”