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UPDATED: Obama Says GOP Congress Would Cut Education Funding

President Barack Obama told a crowd in New Mexico today that a Republican Congress would seek to cut education spending in order to pay for tax cuts for the rich.

President Barack Obama holds a discussion on education and the economy in the backyard of a home in Albuquerque, N.M., on Sept. 28.[UPDATE: In his comments, the president mentioned some specific cuts that he says are in the GOP plan, including to Head Start and college financial aid:

"Their number one economic priority is retaining $700 billion [in] tax breaks to the wealthiest 2 percent of the country—millionaires and billionaires mostly. ... That's their main economic plan. And when you ask them, 'Well, how would you pay for some of this stuff?' they don't really have good answers," Obama said.

"But one way they would pay for it is to cut back our education spending by 20 percent and eliminate about 200,000 Head Start programs and reduce student aid to go to college for about 8 million students.

"And so I just want everybody to think about those kinds of issues as you go into the polling place in November: Who's going to prioritize our young people to make sure they've got the skills they need to succeed over the long term? Nothing is going to be more important in terms of our long-term success."]

Not so fast, says Rep. John Kline of Minnesota, the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, who would likely become chairman if his party takes a majority in the House.

He called the claim "baseless" and said Republicans are merely trying to bring discretionary spending levels back to where they were before the Troubled Asset Relief Program (aka the bailout) and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka the stimulus.)

But the GOP is not going so far as to propose an overall spending level for education, or for particular education programs.

"Instead of having an honest discussion about bringing fiscal responsibility back to Washington, D.C., the president is setting up a straw man with his claims about education funding," Kline said in a statement.

"The president and his party are resorting to baseless claims in order to distract the public's attention from their fiscal recklessness and inability to even propose a budget this year. Republicans are focused on doing what's right for our children—that begins by stopping Washington's out-of-control spending spree."

Interesting to note here: We're not seeing much discussion of some of the wonkier ideas in education on the campaign trail (no candidate has come out in favor of, or against, say, tying Title I grants to standards). But we are seeing a lot of discussion about whether providing more money for schools can make a difference. I guess that's to be expected, given that the feds doled out a staggering, unprecedented $100 billion for schools and colleges on Obama's watch.

Photo credit: Charles Dharapak/AP

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