February 27th, 2012
05:26 PM ET
Washington (CNN) - After attending a noon-time speech by President Obama that focused primarily on education reform, many of the nation’s most conservative governors spoke to reporters outside the White House on Monday and said that they’d heard some things they liked in the president’s message.
“We absolutely have to have the best educational system in the entire world, so I do agree with the need for educational reform,” Louisiana’s Republican Governor Bobby Jindal told reporters.
Perhaps indicating why the president chose the topic, Jindal quickly went on to outline his disagreements with the Obama administration’s approach to almost every other issue other than education.
“I walked into the meetings this morning believing that we need to have a conservative in the White House. I left the meetings continuing to believe that,” Jindal said.
Jindal’s reaction was not unique. Visiting the White House as part of the National Governors Association Winter Meeting, several often-critical governors reacted positively to the president’s call for a redoubled focus on education.
“There was a lot of broad agreement on education today,” said Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, a widely-rumored top contender for the vice presidential spot on the GOP ticket in November.
McDonnell went on to call the president “very gutsy” in his approach to education reform, praising both Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for their actions to force policy changes in public schools.
“I mean he's been very outspoken on that and we certainly agree with him on that,” McDonnell said. “I think there's broad room for support on those issues.”
“I think that we all realize that everybody's not going to be headed to college, that we have to have out community colleges and good job training,” Brewer said. “We need people that fit in with those kinds of skills that they have. So all of that's really, really important.”
When a reporter pointed out that that was basically the president’s proposal, Brewer said that she agreed.
Education reform was brought to the forefront of the Republican presidential primary again recently when Rick Santorum accused the president of educational snobbery for his calls for every child to go to college.
“I wish he'd said it differently,” said McDonnell – a Romney supporter – when asked about Santorum’s comments. “I want more college graduates, but that means community college and four-year universities but not to the exclusion of realizing that some people are going to graduate from high school and be in the trades. I think what we say is we want someone to be career ready or college ready.”
At the White House briefing, Press Secretary Jay Carney responded to Santorum’s comments.
“I don't think any parent in America who has a child would think it snobbery to hope for that child the best possible education in the future and that includes college,” Carney said. “As you know the president has always made clear that he believes higher education is important for everyone and that includes, if not a four year degree, and a bachelor of arts degree, then a two year degree from community college or vocational training from a community college. "