CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio says the U.S. doesn't need a federal Education Department, arguing that its recommendations to state and local governments often turn into mandates tied to money.

The Florida senator made the comments Tuesday during a town hall meeting in Carson City. About 200 people attended the gathering in a community center, part of a tour of northern Nevada.

"What starts out as a suggestion ends up being, 'If you want money from us, you must to do it this way,' and you will end up with a version of a national school board," Rubio said. "We don't need a national school board."

Democrats pointed out that Rubio's expensive college costs were footed in part by Pell Grants and Stafford Loans, which are administered by the Education Department.

Rubio said the department administers certain programs that have merit but those could be transferred to other agencies. "I honestly think we don't need a Department of Education," he said.

The candidate drew claps and cheers when he told his audience he opposed Common Core education standards. "I do support curriculum reform," he said, but that should be done at the state and local level.

Rubio spoke in Reno on Monday and is campaigning in the rural Nevada communities of Yerington and Fallon on his trip through the state.