To guess the education plans in Barack Obama's State of the Union speech Tuesday night, look no further than the guests in first lady Michelle Obama's box.
Obama's action points often reflected their stories: an undocumented college student who took part in Obama's "deferred action" plan; a 16-year-old winner of the 2012 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair; a recent community college graduate who now works on wind turbines; a young machinist who laid the foundation for his manufacturing career at his Kentucky high school; a first-grade teacher from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut; an early childhood educator from Norman, Oklahoma, and a NASA Mars Curiosity rover team member who volunteers to mentor students in FIRST robotics.
Here are the education ideas that rippled through Obama's State of the Union speech - and afterward, in Republican Sen. Marco Rubio's response:
The "College Scorecard"
There was talk of money-crunching "scorecard" last year, but Obama announced during his speech that it would be released Wednesday - it's up now at whitehouse.gov/scorecard. The "College Scorecard" will show which schools offer the best value, "where you can get the most bang for your educational buck," he said. That wasn't all: Obama also asked Congress to change the Higher Education Act to attach schools' federal aid to their "affordability and value."
Preschool for all kids
Obama said investing in high-quality early childhood education saves money later, boosts graduation rates and reduces teen pregnancy and violent crime. "I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America," he said.
He gave a shout-out to Georgia and Oklahoma, states he said make early childhood education a priority. Obama will be visiting a pre-Kindergarten school in Georgia this week, and Susan Bumgarner, an early childhood educator from Oklahoma City, watched the speech with Michelle Obama.
Higher rewards for high-tech education
Some states and schools have discussed charging students less to pursue majors in science, technology, engineering and math fields, and more for majors like English or anthropology. Obama wasn't so specific, but he said he wants to "resdesign America's high schools" to gear-up grads for a high-tech economy.
"We'll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math -- the skills today's employers are looking for to fill jobs," Obama said.
Rewarding high schools for high-tech curriculum doesn't mean every student will head to college. Obama mentioned "those German kids" who come up through schools that make sure they've got the skills for a job by the time they graduate. He pointed to P-Tech in Brooklyn, where graduates leave with a high school diploma and associate's degree in a high-tech field.
Better school buildings
Obama proposed a "Fix-It-First" program to create jobs fixing bridges and other infrastructure, along with a "Partnership to Rebuild America" to attract private capital to help. On the list of what it could help with? "Modern schools worthy of our children."
Rubio's response: More school choice, clearer financial aid
In the GOP response, Rubio, R-Florida, listed some education ideas of his own - in particular, offering incentives for schools to provide Advanced Placement courses and more vocational training and increasing school choice, especially for parents of kids with special needs.
Rubio said he'd only recently paid off his student debt of more than $100,000, and that students need more information about loans before they sign on. He pointed out that students are single parents, veterans and people who've lost jobs, not just teens. Financial aid shouldn't "discriminate against programs that non-traditional students rely on -- like online courses, or degree programs that give you credit for work experience," he said.