Those views were echoed by Paul Toner, the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, an affiliate of the 3.2 million-member National Education Association.
"We would find out about his most recent education policy through press releases," said Mr. Toner. He said the governor never "consulted with people in the field doing the job working with children."
But David P. Driscoll, who served as state education commissioner during Mr. Romney's administration, described him as a collegial executive who put a major focus on improving outcomes for students.
"Public education was definitely a priority for him. He was very supportive of it," said Mr. Driscoll, who was named schools chief by the state board--not by Mr. Romney--and is a registered Democrat. He said Mr. Romney did a lot of outreach on his agenda, including joining Mr. Driscoll in a series of forums across the state on education issues.
"I found him very good to work with," added Mr. Driscoll, who is now largely retired and does some consulting work.
In a heartfelt moment in his education speech last month, Mr. Romney touted the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship program, which he started in Massachusetts and which gives students who score in the top 25 percent of their districts on state exams free tuition at the state's public universities. The scholarships do not cover other costs, such as fees and room and board.
"I got more hugs on Adams Scholarship day than I did at Christmas," Mr. Romney said.
But the program wasn't without its critics. A disproportionately small number of the state's minority students or students from disadvantaged families qualified for the grants, according to a March 2006 study of the program, done on behalf of the Civil Rights Project, then at Harvard University, by Donald E. Heller, who at the time was the director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education at Pennsylvania State University in University Park.
Mr. Costrell disputed the premise of the study, saying that it examined only students who were eligible for the scholarships--not those who actually took advantage of the funding. He noted that only a handful of students from the state's wealthiest school districts actually enroll in the program, compared with other districts with higher levels of poverty.
As governor, Mr. Romney also fought vehemently against bilingual education--a stance he reiterated time and again on the campaign trail this year, including in a series of debates with his rivals for the GOP nomination, though not in his speech in front of the Latino Coalition.
When Mr. Romney ran for governor in 2002, Massachusetts was considering a ballot initiative to put a stop to bilingual education, one of a number of such measures around the country backed by Ron Unz, a former businessman and a political activist. Support for the initiative became a major part of Mr. Romney's campaign. He used it to draw distinctions between himself and his Democratic opponent, Shannon O'Brien, who, like the state's GOP acting governor at the time, Jane Swift, opposed the initiative.
Mr. Romney "really found this was a good wedge issue," said Roger Rice, the executive director of Multicultural Education, Training, and Advocacy, of Somerville, Mass. "It was all about Mitt advancing his career."
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