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Give Palin and Biden Extra Credit for Bringing Up Schools

By Alyson Klein — October 02, 2008 2 min read
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There wasn’t a single question on education during the vice presidential debate, but Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska and Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware managed to get some of their views on schools on the table anyway–-including a surprise comment from Palin saying that she wants to increase education funding.(UPDATE: Read the transcript here.)

“Our schools have got to be really ramped up in terms of the funding,” Palin said during the debate at Washington University in St. Louis. “Teachers need to be paid more.” And she said that states’ education standards have been “a little bit lax” and need to be raised.

That might be news to her running mate, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who has said that he wants to freeze most domestic discretionary spending, including for education, until he can conduct a top-to-bottom review of all federal programs.

Palin also gave voters a sense of where she stands on the No Child Left Behind Act, which neither presidential candidate has addressed much on the campaign trail. Palin said the law needs more “flexibility,” although she did not elaborate on what that would look like.

And she bemoaned the lack of attention education has received. “It’s near and dear to my heart,” she said.

But Biden pointed out that McCain hasn’t proposed increasing education spending. McCain has said he wants to freeze discretionary spending for most domestic programs, including education, until he can conduct a top-to-bottom review of all federal programs.

Biden cited lack of money as a reason that NCLB law hasn’t been a success.

“The reason No Child Left Behind was left behind, the money was left behind, we didn’t fund it,” he said.

Biden said that he and his running mate, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, would not scale back their $18 billion education spending plan, despite the recent economic turmoil and a possible $700 billion federal assistance plan for the financial sector.

“We won’t slow up on education because that’s the engine that’s going to give us the economic growth and competitiveness we need,” Biden said.

Palin also gave a nod to the educators in her family – her father and brother are both teachers.

“I know education you are passionate about with your wife being a teacher for 30 years, and God bless her,” Palin said to Biden. “Her reward is in heaven, right? I say, too, with education … I come from a house full of school teachers. My grandma was, my dad, who is in the audience today, he’s a schoolteacher, had been for many years. My brother, who I think is the best schoolteacher of the year. And here’s a shout-out to all those 3rd graders at Gladys Wood Elementary School, you get extra credit for watching the debate.”

Biden and Palin weren’t given the opportunity to criticize their opponents’ records on schools, but Biden did get in a quick dig at Sen. McCain on the issue, saying that “he has not been a maverick when it comes to education.”

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