Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney hit Lake Forest to raise $4 million for his campaign Monday night, capping a day in which he tried to seize on the teachers strike in President Barack Obama's hometown to attack his foe on education.
Hours before landing at O'Hare International Airport, Romney released a statement accusing Obama of siding with organized labor instead of students.
"Teachers unions have too often made plain that their interests conflict with those of our children, and today we are seeing one of the clearest examples yet," Romney said.
"President Obama has chosen his side in this fight," the Romney statement added. "I choose to side with the parents and students depending on public schools to give them the skills to succeed, and my plan for education reform will do exactly that."
"President Obama's leadership has led to groundbreaking reforms in our schools," said Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt. "Gov. Romney has said class size isn't a problem and he would cut taxes for millionaires by gutting education funding, leading to fewer teachers. Playing political games with local disputes won't help educate our kids, nor will fewer teachers."
Romney did not take questions upon landing in Illinois, where he attended a fundraiser at the Lake Forest home of Reeve Waud, the wealthy founder of a Chicago private equity firm. About 400 people were slated to attend the event, which was expected to raise $4 million for Romney's campaign and other Republicans funds, said Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford, chairman of Romney's Illinois campaign.
It is not the first time Romney has criticized teachers unions, saying previously that they have an "outsized influence" on campaigns and often stifle reform efforts.
The Republican contender's comments were met with a sharp rebuke from the Chicago Teachers Union. A union spokeswoman said Monday that "we all should give pause when politicians and their billionaire buddies suddenly take an interest in black and brown children."
And while talks between the union and Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office continue, the former Obama chief of staff signaled there was at least one thing the two sides could agree on: Romney should butt out.
"While I appreciate his lip service, what really counts is what we're doing here," Emanuel said at a news conference. "And I don't really give two hoots about national comments scoring political points or trying to embarrass, or whatever, the president."