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President Barack Obama hit the education theme hard in his second State of the Union address last night and set the stage for a fight with Congressional Republicans over federal education spending as he prepares to release his budget for this year.

Education was one of the “pillars” of change that he said needs an infusion of money, along with innovation and infrastructure, despite the tough economy right now. In particular, he narrowed in on science, technology, engineering and math, known as the STEM fields, calling for the preparation of 100,000 new STEM teachers in the next decade.

Obama also seemed geared up to fight for another round of funding for Race to the Top, which he called the “most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation.” At the Washington Post, Nick Anderson notes that this is a “debatable” characterization of the competition. Here’s what Russ Whitehurst at Brookings had to say: “It is far too soon to tally the results in terms of student achievement, but there is no doubt that it was the largest expansion of federal executive branch control in any generation.”

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