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Democratic Senate candidate Scott Howell says Sen. Orrin Hatch voted to gut federal aid for college students, so he wants voters to put a dunce cap on him and send him home.

"Orrin Hatch has voted to eliminate $170 billion from Pell Grant funding," Howell said Tuesday at a press conference at the University of Utah about his ideas on education. "He's also voted to eliminate the tax deduction for college tuition, currently set at $2,500. He's also voted to increase the Stafford loan rate from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent."

"These cuts would unfairly punish many middle-class and low-income families trying to obtain an education," Howell said, and increase costs for students by thousands of dollars.

Howell said he would have voted opposite of Hatch on such issues, and said that is among the reasons he has been endorsed by the Utah Education Association and the National Education Association. Howell, whose father was a school principal and mother was a teacher, also said education is his passion and the main reason he entered politics.

Heather Barney, spokeswoman for Hatch, responded saying, "Scott Howell is the one who is out of touch with Utah voters" because the votes he is attacking "would have raised taxes on families and small businesses."

Hatch "is sensitive to the needs of education and Utah students, but is not in favor of raising taxes when there are other ways to take care of those programs," Barney said.

She said Hatch voted for a GOP alternative "that would have given some of the slush funds in 'Obamacare' to help those programs."

Howell said gridlock in Washington is threatening education, and he would work collaboratively with people in both parties and with all stakeholders to protect it and ensure "getting dollars down to the classrooms," which he says the federal government is failing to do.

Howell said he also supports the Prosperity 2020 programs developed by Utah businesses, teacher groups and others to set high goals for education and plans for how to achieve it.

"If we focus on the four imperatives highlighted in this plan: assessment, intervention, accountability and innovation, and utilize this collaborative approach, Utah can climb from the bottom 10 to the top 10" in quality of education, Howell said.

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