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President Barack Obama walks in the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn, Aug. 3, 2012.
One big set of question marks for President Barack Obama's second term centers around education. There's not even one single area that remains a question; there are unsettled policy and funding issues at every level, from preschool through college.

Education funding is the major fight Obama needs to pick, and which would be a political winner for him. Sequestration would bring major education funding cuts, some of which would go into effect immediately, but:

"Even Republicans understand that cutting education spending is not something that is popular with voters," said Michael Petrilli, a former Education Department official and executive vice president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative education think tank.
That doesn't mean Republicans won't fight for some cuts, or to block increased education spending ("we can't afford to invest in our nation's future" is a surprisingly popular refrain among congressional Republicans), but this is a place where Obama is on the right side from the standpoint of both policy and politics, and he should fight here.

Pre-kindergarten and higher education are two other areas of potential strength for Obama. If it's hard to argue for education cuts, it's especially hard to vote to cut the smallest children. And higher education? Those are young voters you're talking about. If Republicans want to have a shot at winning over young voters, raising college loan interest rates is not the way to go.

When it comes to K-12 education, Obama ends up on weaker political ground. The fact is, many of his preferred K-12 policies, like promoting charter schools and standardized testing (all his rhetoric about not wanting teachers to teach to the test notwithstanding), are slightly moderated versions of longtime Republican policies. Republicans will fight him because that's what they do, and many of his allies will fight him, too, because they're opposed to the policies.

Obama can do a lot of good by expanding pre-K education, working on college costs, and fighting for education funding at every level. If he gets drawn into a fight about making teacher evaluations contingent on how students score on tests not designed to evaluate teachers or about charter schools, he's going to find himself fighting Republicans to implement from the federal level the policies they've been pushing at the state and local level for years, while alienating many of his allies. Here's hoping he sticks to the good fight.

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