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Romney touts new education reform plan, attacks Obama ties to teachers' unions

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"The tragedy is not just a matter of test scores and international rankings. It’s the frustration of a sixth grader who wants to learn more, but is stuck in a class that’s moving too slowly. It’s the embarrassment of a 10th grader who knows he can’t read the books he’s assigned. It’s the shame of a 12th grader who’s supposed to be ready to graduate, but hasn’t mastered the skills he or she needs to succeed in life," Romney said.

The speech was the first foray for the former Massachusetts governor into substantive social policy heading into the general election. And he made it before a Hispanic audience.

Romney has trailed substantially among Hispanic voters in early polls on the presidential race — they are expected to be a crucial voting bloc in the election. In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll released Wednesday, Obama led Romney among Hispanic voters by 34 percent, 61 to 27.

In Romney's remarks, he made no mention of immigration, the controversial wedge issue that he breaks with a majority of Hispanics on. During a screened question-and-answer session at the end of his speech, Romney said he saw "extraordinary economic opportunity" in Latin America, but avoided discussion of immigration reform.

He did, however, address the recent controversy over Obama campaign's commercials critical of his tenure at Bain Capital. Romney characterized the ads as part of the president's "war on jobs creators" and accused Obama of "attacking success."

"In recent days we’ve heard a lot about business from the president, and if you’re feeling like you deserve protection under the Endangered Species Act, I can’t blame you," Romney told the audience at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the most powerful business groups in Washington.

For more on Romney's remarks, click here.