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Obama tells Madison crowd that states must reform education to guarantee a strong future

President Obama told a Madison audience Wednesday that Wisconsin and other states must reform education to guarantee a strong economic future.

The president spoke to 250 students and others at Wright Middle School.

On the first anniversary of his election, the Democrat Obama said one of his mandates was to invest in a stronger future.

And he said his $4 billion Race to the Top education grants are among those investments.

States will compete for the money, and not all will get it. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Obama came to Wisconsin to highlight the state's opportunities, and to lobby for Gov. Jim Doyle's education initiatives.

The state Legislature is scheduled to vote today to let school administrators use test scores to help evaluate teachers, which the White House requires in order to qualify for some of the Race to the Top stimulus money.

Obama did not say whether the funding hinges on giving Milwaukee's mayor control of that city's troubled school system.

Duncan would not answer that either. But he said something must be done, because Milwaukee is one of the few cities where the performance gap between white students and minorities continues to grow.

The Legislature would have to approve mayoral control, and Doyle says it will require a special session sometime after today.

Obama also spoke privately to kids about education. And Mansfield Neblett, an immigrant from Liberia, was allowed to wear a Packer cheesehead into the speech, after the Secret Service balked at first.

Obama autographed the foam hat.