GOP Candidates Target Unions in Education Summit

In the first education summit for the 2016 election, six of the 17 GOP candidates spoke to moderator and former CNN anchor Campbell Brown on their education policies and what they'll do for education reform if elected president.

The topics ranged on everything from what will the future of the classroom look like (which most candidates answered with advanced technology) to who an influential teacher was in their schooling. But of the variety of topics discussed, the GOP candidates all tended to agree on one thing: that teachers unions are harmful to education.

Many of the candidates who spoke have battled teachers unions in their own states, notably Chris Christie and Scott Walker.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush kicked off the summit and said that "the union is not there to talk about rising student achievement; their job is to collectively bargain." He criticized those who support and fund teachers unions, calling out New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio and referring to unions as a "thriving business for bureaucracies."

While Carly Fiorina has not battled with unions, she did have some harsh words for teachers unions. She said that teachers unions reward seniority when it comes to determining which teachers stay and which ones go. "A seniority system over time rewards you for just sitting in the chair and anybody trying to do a good job gets discouraged" said Fiorina.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich cracked a joke during his question and answer on unions saying that if he were king of America, he would eliminate teacher's lounges so they would "quit whining." Regarding the unions, he said, "If we work together, that's fine. If we don't work together, that's not fine."

Scott Walker spoke extensively about his past battles with teachers unions in Wisconsin (including his changes to collective bargaining) and how giving teachers the choice to not unionize created major issues.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal spent most of his time focusing on how New Orleans reinvented its school system after Hurricane Katrina. When discussing how parents should have more options and choices when it comes to schools, Jindal quoted a member of a LA teachers union to show why their power should be checked: "Parents don’t have a clue when it comes to making choices for their kids."

And as the last candidate of the day to speak, Chris Christie, known for saying that teachers unions need to get punched in the face, continued to use that expression while discussing unions.

The New Jersey governor also declared that if the Supreme Court rules later this year that union members do not have to pay union dues, the unions will collapse and thus that will help education tremendously. "No unions help education" he said.

The second summit will be held for Democratic candidates in Iowa in October.