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Obama vs. Romney 101: 5 differences on education

President Obama has used back-to-school season to make the case that his education funding and policy initiatives are saving teachers’ jobs, turning around failing public schools, and helping cash-strapped college students. Mitt Romney counters that Mr. Obama has spent too much, and he advocates more school choice and private-sector involvement.

Here is a look at how the two differ on the issue of education.

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President Obama speaks with teachers during a campaign event at Canyon Springs High School in Las Vegas on Aug. 22.
Kevin Lamarque/REUTERS
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1. K-12 spending

Obama’s stimulus package included $100 billion for education, which he claims saved about 300,000 jobs. It also funded his Race to the Top grants for states, which have received praise even from some Republicans for promoting school turnarounds, better teacher evaluations, and charter schools.

Education is also a central theme in Obama’s 2013 budget proposal, which requested $69.8 billion in discretionary spending for the US Department of Education, a 2.5 percent increase. (That plan, however, is getting nowhere in Congress.)

In May, Mr. Romney released “A Chance for Every Child,” a 34-page education plan. In it he said the stimulus funding “served to delay the difficult budgetary decisions facing states” and that “more funding for the status quo will not deliver the results that our students deserve … and our taxpayers expect.”

Spending proposals on the Romney campaign website include an immediate cut of 5 percent of all nonsecurity discretionary spending, and an eventual reduction of federal spending to below 20 percent of gross domestic product.

Romney running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin authored a budget blueprint that would include even more dramatic cuts to discretionary spending. It doesn’t specify exact cuts for education, but Democrats say that if it is applied across the board, it would cut $115 billion from preK-12 and higher education over 10 years, the Associated Press reports. 

Unlike some of his primary-race opponents, Romney doesn’t want to eliminate the US Department of Education. But he has suggested he would consolidate it with another agency or make it significantly smaller.

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