Obama tackles merit pay after getting NEA endorsement

Democratic presidential candidate Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaKamala Harris makes history — as a Westerner Poll: 15 percent of Democratic voters want to eliminate the filibuster Donald Trump has done more for African Americans than we think MORE on Saturday thanked the National Education Association for its endorsement but also made it clear that he continues to support merit pay for teachers.

His position is a controversial one with the 3.2 million member group and it has earned him criticism when he addressed the NEA in 2007.

“Now I know this wasn’t necessarily the most popular part of my speech last year but I said it then and I’m saying it again now because it’s what I believe and I will always be an honest partner to you in the White House,” said the Illinois senator, who spoke to the group via satellite from Montana.

Obama proposes to raise teacher pay through merit based rewards for work above and beyond their positions. The issue has long been a widely opposed proposal among the NEA due to its potential for abuse through favoritism and “subjective” evaluations.

The senator pledged to fix the unpopular “No Child Left Behind Act,” saying, that while the law had been passed in 2002 with good intentions, it had ultimately failed to produce the desired results.

“Let me be clear NEA, opposing No Child Left Behind alone is not an education policy it’s just the starting point. We’ve got more work to do,” Obama said and then listed the votes in presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainSarah Palin offers Harris advice: 'Don't get muzzled' McSally gaining ground on Kelly in Arizona Senate race: poll Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump MORE’s (R-Ariz.) record that he deemed wrong on education.

“He voted against funding the hiring of 100,000 more teachers,” Obama said, noting that McCain also voted against increasing funding for a laundry list of NEA backed initiatives. “He even applauded the idea of abolishing the Department of Education.”

The NEA has said it is prepared to spend $50 million on the 2008 elections.

McCain was also invited to address the annual convention, but declined the invitation.