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CBS Local Presidential Forum Obama/Romney: Square Off Over Education and Energy

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President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney. (Getty Images/Luke Sharrett and Joe Raedle)

President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney. (Getty Images/Luke Sharrett and Joe Raedle)

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By Carol Cain CBS 62 Detroit

When it comes to issues that resonate in this presidential election – education ranks second only to the economy, which is why Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama took time to explain their education agenda in the CBS Local Presidential Forum.

The question is one of 10 being asked over 10 days of the two candidates who hope to be become 45th president of the United States. CBS Local launched this exclusive forum to help constituents learn more about the candidates and their policies.

“First, I will promote increased choice and innovation, specifically by allowing the parents of low-income and special needs students to choose the school they attend and bring federal funding with them,” said Romney.

“Secondly, my policies would ensure high standards and responsibility for results by providing better information for parents through public report cards that evaluate each school on its contribution to student learning, Romney said. “And, I will support states in recruiting and rewarding great teachers.”

Obama said education is an economic imperative that serves as a gateway to good-paying jobs, a strong middle class, and a workforce that out-innovates the rest of the world.  He said he wants to recruit 100,000 math and science teachers and give two million workers a chance to learn skills at their community college that lead to jobs and cut in half the growth of tuition costs over the next decade.

The latest survey from Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Sept. 12-16 among 3,019 adults, including 2,424 registered voters, found the critical “swing voters” – those undecided who represent anywhere from 5 to 20 percent of those voting – say education is the second most important issue to them in deciding who to vote for.

With many voters already decided in this race, it will likely be those still not certain that determine the outcome. Which is why these forums, debates and campaign stops in the final days are so important.

Pew’s survey found it was the economy that mattered most to swing voters (87 percent), but education the second most important topic at 74 percent.

The issue resonates with many as it impacts our future in the fierce global marketplace where other nations put increased pressure and focus on their education systems.

“The sad reality of our education system today is that it is rampant with inequality of access, which is jeopardizing not just the futures of the thousands of students sentenced to a substandard education, but also the future of the next generation of American leaders,” said Malcom Glenn, national director of communications for the American Federation For Children, a national organization that advocates for school choice for families.

“It’s why we’ve fallen to 14th in the world in reading, 17th in math, and 25th in science, and why a child’s ZIP code is often a determiner of their long-term educational outcome,” Glenn said. “That’s unacceptable, and it’s why parents should have more educational choice.”

Today on the CBS Local forum, Romney and Obama were asked: What will you do to make the U.S. more energy independent?

Today: Our Energy Future

This has been an issue swirling for decades. President Jimmy Carter addressed the nation in his 1977 fireside chat during the Mideast oil crisis, which saw prices skyrocket and long lines at gas stations.

“I have recently put forward a six-part plan to achieve North American energy independence by 2020,” Romney answered. “ I will empower states to control all forms of energy development on federal lands within their borders, excluding only those that are off-limits. Second, I will open offshore areas to energy development. Third, I will pursue a North American Energy Partnership so that America can benefit from the resources of its neighbors. Fourth, I will ensure accurate assessment of the nation’s resources by updating decades-old surveys. Fifth, I will restore transparency and fairness to federal regulations. And sixth, I will facilitate private-sector-led development of new energy technologies and remove barriers to a diversification of our fuel system and vehicle fleet.”

Obama is interested in developing America’s natural resources, adding that when he took office the country was importing more than 60 percent of its oil. Today, that percentage is down to just over 40 percent.

And thanks to booming U.S. oil and gas production, more efficient cars and trucks, and a world-class refining sector, the nation cut net imports by about 10 percent – or roughly a million barrels a day – last year.

Obama has charted a course to try and cut oil imports in half by 2020.

Coming up Monday: President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney: answer how “Obama Care” and “Romney Care” are similar, or dissimilar?

(Carol Cain is an Emmy winning journalist who has covered politics and business over 20 years. She is Senior Producer/Host of CBS62’s “Michigan Matters” and writes a column on politics and business for Detroit Free Press. She can be reached at clcain@cbs.com).

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