What's at stake in the 2012 presidential election - in photos

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Education ranks second only to the economy in issues important to Americans. Yet the U.S. lags globally in educating its children. And higher education costs are leaving students saddled with debt or unable to afford college at all.

State budget cuts have meant teacher layoffs and larger class sizes. Colleges have had to make do with less. It all trickles down to the kids in the classroom.

Although Washington contributes a small fraction of education money, it influences teacher quality, accessibility and more. For example, to be freed from provisions of the No Child Left Behind law, states had to develop federally approved reforms.

Romney wants more state and local control over education. But he supports some of Obama's proposals, notably charter schools and teacher evaluations. So, look for them to be there whoever wins the White House.

Teacher Diana Feke helps Mason Baker, 5, during lunch at the Eastham Community Center Claskamas County Children's Commission Head Start Monday, April 9, 2012, in Oregon City, Ore. Oregon enrolls relatively few children in its state-funded pre-kindergarten program, but spends more money per student than almost every state, according to an annual report released Tuesday by the National Institute for Early Education. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)