President Obama accused Mitt Romney of “a lot of teacher bashing” for trying to politicize the recent Chicago teacher strike by tying the president to the city’s teachers unions.
During an interview Tuesday as part of NBC News Education Nation, Obama dismissed charges by Romney that the president sided during the strike with organized labor, which typically favors Democratic candidates, over the interest of students.Video: President Obama: I ‘goofed off’ too much in school (on this page)
“I just really get frustrated when I hear teacher-bashing as evidence of reform,” Obama told TODAY's Savannah Guthrie. "My sister is a former teacher. And I can tell you that they work so hard. They’re putting money out of their own pockets in the classroom every single day. They’re not doing it for the pay.”
Obama agreed that bad teachers should get the chance to improve through training. However, he said “if they can’t get better, they should be able to get fired.”
The United States spends more money per pupil than nearly any other country, yet American students struggle to compete globally in the fields of math, science and reading.
Obama said part of the reason is because of this nation’s economically diverse population.
"These smaller countries where all the kids are coming to school pretty well prepared — they’re not hungry, they’re not poor," he said. "In our country, we’ve got poor kids, some kids who have deep troubles at home. But there’s no doubt that we can step up our game."
Obama has acknowledged raising the stakes in his own household. Several years ago, he called on states and parents to set higher education standards for children. He did so by making an example of his daughter, Malia, who had recently brought home a 73 percent on a science test. She quickly brought her grade up to an A, but never failed to let her father know how embarrassed she was by the incident.
More TODAY News
Obama said his two daughters are far better students than he ever was. The president even revealed he was known to fail a test or two in his youth.
“I would say I was a mediocre student until I got to college. I goofed off way too much. Malia and Sasha are so far ahead of me, basically in all respects,” he said. “They’re just better people than I was at their age.”
The girls get a lot more homework than the president did at their age, said Obama, who commented on his daughter’s industrious study habits.
“They seem to be working deep into the night,” he said. “You know, I didn’t study that hard until the night before an exam.”
© 2013 NBCNews.com Reprints