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Biden vs. Ryan: Top Five Education Moments to Watch For

By Alyson Klein — October 11, 2012 2 min read
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So unless you’re living on Mars, you’ve got to know by now that Vice President Joe Biden and wanna-be veep Paul Ryan will be debating tonight—and both halves of Politics K-12 will be watching (and of course, tweeting).

What are some key questions going into tonight? Here’s a list:

1.Will Ryan back up Romney’s debate pledge not to cut education? Biden is almost certain to attack Ryan for the cuts to education in his budget blueprint, which has been a recurring theme of this campaign, with the Obama folks (including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan) attaching numbers to cuts to Head Start, special education, college aid, you name it. The problem is that Ryan’s budget doesn’t go into those specifics—he’s calling for a 20 percent cut to domestic discretionary spending, the category that includes education, but it’s impossible to tell how this would impact individual programs. And in the last debate, Romney said education would be spared, although we have no idea what he really meant by that either.

A good sign education spending is going to come up? This afternoon, the U.S. Department of Education emailed around a link to Duncan’s congressional testimony on the Ryan budget last March.

2. How many times will Biden bring up the fact that his wife is a community college teacher? Our guess: Probably at least once or twice. Jill Biden, who teaches at Northern Virginia Community College, has been a mascot of the administration’s push for community colleges as an engine of economic development. Of course, the Obama administration’s original plan to pump $10 billion into community colleges got curtailed significantly.

3. Both Ryan and Biden went to Catholic schools—will their plight come up tonight? Way more from Mike Petrilli of Fordham Institute and Flypaper fame here.

4. Will Ryan explain how Romney’s plan to offer federal money as vouchers to help kids attend private schools would actually work? He’s the numbers guy, after all. Romney wants to give parents of disadvantaged and special needs kids direct access to Title I and special ed money, instead of having it go to districts. That way, parents can send kids to the school of their choice. The big problem? Federal funds only cover roughly 8 percent of K-12 costs, on average. So where would a parent get the rest of the money to pay for school tuition? We have no idea.

5. Will Ryan be able to persuade Biden to just skip the debate and instead lead America in a bipartisan, childhood obesity-fighting P90X workout? Cause that would be pretty awesome.

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