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.
Both sides of the gay marriage debate agree on this much: The issue defines what sort of nation America will be.
Half a dozen states and the District of Columbia have made history by legalizing it, but it's prohibited elsewhere and 30 states have placed bans in their constitutions.
Obama supports legal recognition of same-sex marriage, as a matter decided by states. Romney says same-sex marriage should be banned with a constitutional amendment.
The debate divides the public down the middle, according to recent polls, and stirs up passion on both sides.
In November, four states have gay-marriage measures on their ballots. In Minnesota, the vote is whether to ban gay marriage in the state constitution. Voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington state are voting on whether to legalize gay marriage.
Thus far, foes of gay marriage have prevailed in all 32 states where the issue reached the ballot.
Gun violence has been splayed across front pages with alarming frequency lately: the movie theater killings in Colorado, the Sikh temple shootings in Wisconsin, the gunfire outside the Empire State Building and more. Guns are used in two-thirds of homicides, according to the FBI. But the murder rate is less than half what it was two decades ago.