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Decision 2012: Education Gets Short Shrift During First Two Presidential Debates

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The first two presidential debates touched on many domestic policy issues but some education experts said before the third debate on Monday that the candidates needed to address education. NY1’s Washington reporter Erin Billups filed the following report.

"We haven't had a chance to talk about education much," said President Barack Obama.

University of Maryland education policy professor Steven Klees called that lack of focus unfortunate.

"I didn't see any education,” said Klees. “Education is maybe the most important issue our nation faces."

The candidates have few similarities on education policy.

Obama plans to move forward with his Race To The Top program that allows schools to compete for funding by implementing a series of reforms.

"As a consequence, you have 46 states around the country who have made a real difference," said Obama.

"President Obama had two strong provisions that Governor Romney agreed with,” said Klees. “One was the expansion of charter schools and the other was pay for performance for teachers. Both of those proposals are problematic."

The two candidates also have clear differences.

"Let's hire another 100,000 math and science teachers to make sure we maintain our technological lead," Obama said at the first presidential debate.

Mitt Romney wants to spend less, as he said, more efficiently.

In his white paper on education, Romney proposed reversing the Obama administration's nationalization of the student loan market, putting it back in the hands of banks.

Like his plan for Medicare, Romney proposed creating a voucher system for kindergarten through 12th grade.

"All federal funds, instead of going to the state or to the school district, I'd have go, if you will, follow the child and let the parent and the child decide," said Romney.

Klees warned that Romney's voucher plan would fundamentally change education in the country as we know it.

"It takes attention away from reforming public schools,” said Klees. “It's going to leave public schools as the repository of our most disadvantaged students."

Klees maintained that more information was still needed.

"If we don't do anything about poverty,” said Klees. “If we don't do anything about ill health, about malnutrition, about hunger in our society, we cannot fix our schools. Unfortunately, at this moment, neither candidate is talking about these policies."

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