The National Education Association has a (very!) early Valentine's Day message to American voters: "Mitt Romney has a strange way of showing 'love.'"
In a new graphic posted to the NEA Facebook page, the organization picks up on Romney's comment at Monday night's presidential debate, where he declared he loved teachers.
The graphic shows instances in which Romney criticized teachers, including telling the Des Moines Register editorial board earlier this month that "hiring school teachers is not going to raise the growth of the U.S. economy over the next three-to-four years."
President Obama seized on the issue at a campaign stop in Delray Beach, Fla. on Tuesday: "If you talk about how much you love teachers during a debate, but said just a few weeks ago that we shouldn't hire anymore because they won't grow the economy...I'll bet you've got some Romnesia," Obama said, using his new word for Romney's flip flops.
NEA president Dennis Van Roekel told msnbc's Thomas Roberts Wednesday that his group's goal is to make sure voters know there's "more than one Mitt Romney running for president."
"From the primaries to the general election to the debates, he seems to want to have it two or three ways," Van Roekel said. "On the one hand, he says he loves teachers, and then he knocks their unions. He says he cares about kids in school, and then says class size doesn't matter—and every parent knows that it does."
Asked about the criticism of teachers' unions, including from Romney himself, Van Roekel said:
In my first year of teaching, I thought if I cared enough and I worked hard enough, I could deliver for every one of my students. But I soon learned that wasn't true. There were people outside of my classroom—policy makers at the local, state, and national--who make decisions that impact the students in my classroom, and I wanted a voice. That's what brought me into my association and my union. I wanted a voice to say to policy makers, 'When you choose this decision, this is how it impact the students in my classroom.' So to try and separate the people from the union is crazy. The people are the union, and they want their voice heard.
Van Roekel also echoed the NEA's endorsement of Obama, and said the president's record in his first term—he cited the Race to the Top initiative, waivers for the federal No Child Left Behind Act, and the doubling of Pell Grant scholarships—is proof of progress in education reform. He contrasted that record with that of Romney, who advocates for school choice, backs No Child Left Behind, and has proposed to eliminate college tax credit.
"I think President Obama really understands that education has to be available for all students in America, not just for some," Van Roekel said.