Palin and Biden on Education

Tonight, vice presidential candidates Sarah Palin and Joe Biden will face off in their first and only debate before Election Day.Locally, Alfie Kohn, a respected author who is staunchly against No Child Left Behind, speaks at Kansas University.Biden, in his brief run for president, said education would be a cornerstone of his presidency.Well, he won’t be elected president, but let’s take a look at where Biden and Palin stand on some education issues, including NCLB.No Child Left Behind Palin: Education Week reports that Palin has generally been supportive of NCLB, but has supported the state’s efforts to gain more flexibility around the act. It has been difficult for schools in Alaska’s remote areas to meet the law’s benchmarks. Last year 294 schools in Alaska met adequate yearly progress under NCLB.Biden: Biden says he regrets voting in favor of NCLB in 2001. He said in last July’s primary debates that “I would scrap it – or, I guess, theoretically, you could do a major overhaul.” He says schools need smaller classrooms and better teachers.Accountability (this year’s buzz word?) Palin: In her 2008 State of the State address, Palin said, “In education, we are shaping a three-year funding plan to finally shift the school debate from perpetual “money talk” to accountability and achievement! We are focusing on foundational skills needed in the ‘real-world’ workplace and college?Biden: Biden has repeatedly said he supports performance-based pay for teachers.Evolution vs. Intelligent Design Palin: Palin, the daughter of a science teacher, supports teaching both evolution and creationism. “Teach both,” she said in the Boston Globe. “You know, don’t be afraid of information …Healthy debate is so important and it’s so valuable in our schools.”Biden: He calls intelligent design “malarkey.” It’s a safe bet he doesn’t want it taught in schools.Abstinence-only education Palin: For it. Eagle Forum Alaska, a group that describes itself at “pro-family,” asked Palin the following question, and got the following answer:”Will you support funding for abstinence-until-marriage education instead of for explicit sex-education programs, school-based clinics, and the distribution of contraceptives in schools?Palin: Yes, the explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support.”Biden: Against abstinence-only education. Biden’s campaign answered a questionnaire last year, saying, “Senator Biden supports comprehensive and age appropriate sex education that includes science based prevention methods.”Other education tidbits: The National Education Association (NEA) rated Biden 91 percent on voting for pro-public education issues.The NEA gave Palin a favorable review in a recent news release, despite its endorsement of Barack Obama:”While she is only in her second year as Alaska’s governor, she has thus far shown herself to be a supporter of children and public education. She comes from a family of educators. Her father was a teacher, her brother is a teacher, and her mother was an education support professional. In her less than two years as the state’s chief executive officer, she was able to increase per-pupil education spending, and she is opposed to sending public money to support private schools through political schemes like vouchers. Her selection, however, has certainly taken the issue of experience off the table for political debate.”She has drawn criticism, however, for allegedly cutting spending on special needs programs in 2007, by 60 percent. Turns out that’s a false rumor. She actually raised funding for special needs students from $26,900 to $73,840.Palin’s stance on many education issues appears to be an open book, though, I will confess, I haven’t dredged the entire Internet to find them. Biden has been more prominent and vocal about these issues than Palin, but that probably goes with the territory of a long tenure in the Senate.Maybe we’ll learn more tonight.