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Politics

CBS Local Presidential Forum Obama/Romney: Debating Cities and Education

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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

As American cities go, so goes the fate of the nation the saying goes, which is why President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney took time out from the campaign trail to answer a question about their agenda for urban cities as the CBS Local Presidential Forum continued.

CBS Local is posing 10 questions over 10 days on important issues to the two candidates vying for the White House to help voters learn more about them and their policies in this critical election year.

Over 87 million Americans are living in cities with populations over 100,000. Yet, in this campaign, not much conversation has been held about the state of our cities.

“It’s because of the lack of questions being asked of the candidates,” said former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer (1993 until 2001) who also was president of the National Conference of Democratic Mayors and co-chair of the Democratic National Committee.

“The reality is cities do matter,” Archer added. “Most people live in large cities or metropolitan areas around

Romney talked about Obama’s urban policy and offered up his own elixir for cities.

“President Obama’s failed economic policies have hurt cities from coast to coast,” Romney answered in the exclusive CBS Local Forum. .”Those in the industrial heartland like Cleveland and Detroit are facing not only the nationwide struggle of the last four years, but also a longer-term challenge resulting from the erosion of America’s manufacturing might.

He added, “Restoring American leadership in manufacturing will require policies that make our economy the most attractive place in the world to set up shop and make things. Fundamental tax reform will bring our corporate tax rate in line with other developed nations’, and regulatory reform will cut through the red tape that is driving up costs for our businesses.”

Obama, a former community organizer on the south side of Chicago, has called on local leaders and government officials to develop solutions that help revitalize neighborhoods, and get at the root of problems that cause cyclical poverty while empowering those with the best ideas to overcome them. 
 He created the White House Office of Urban Affairs in 2009 to ensure that federal dollars targeted at urban areas would be effectively spent on the highest-impact programs.

When it comes to America’s future, the issue of education rises to the top for many which is why Obama and Romney were asked to weigh in on it as well.

“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 doubled funding for Pell Grants and increased the number of recipients by over 50 percent. And he said he hopes 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.

Today: Education Reform

The issue of education and school choice resonates with many. “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.

The organization has been involved in expanding school voucher programs in Milwaukee, Indiana, New Orleans and in Arizona, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

“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.”

Coming up: See what President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney have to say about the question: What will you do to make the U.S. more energy independent?

(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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