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Tonight's VP Debate: Will Education Make an Appearance?

If moderator Gwen Ifill doesn't ask Republican Sarah Palin or Democrat Joe Biden a question about education during tonight's must-watch debate at 9 p.m., it won't be because no one tried.

The Education Equality Project folks are making their pitch to the debate honchos to ask an education question. A letter to the moderator, signed by New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and ED in '08 leaders, makes the case that the amount of time devoted to education during the presidential campaign has been "shockingly small." The letter goes on to say:

In fact, of 653 questions at 30 debates, only 20 questions addressed education—just 3%. The infrequency with which education is discussed at the debates can't be attributed to a focus on the economy and foreign policy. In the last Democratic debate in Cleveland, for instance, Senators Obama and Clinton spent more than 15 minutes discussing health care; no education questions were asked.

Meanwhile, late this afternoon a rally was scheduled at Washington University in St. Louis, where tonight's debate is to be held, to urge the candidates to focus on children's issues. Sponsored by the Every Child Matters Education Fund, the rally was expected to include children, parents, educators and child advocates in hopes of drawing the candidates' attention to education and social issues facing children.

Already, the National Education Association is weighing in on the debate, even before the first words are exchanged. In a press release that just hit my inbox, NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen said: “Unless Gov. Palin offers a distinctly different vision from Sen. McCain on improving our nation’s public schools, she’s just more of the same. So far, she’s failed to do anything but offer blind support for the same bad policies of the past eight years." (UPDATE: I suddenly remembered that the NEA was far more impressed with Palin a few weeks ago when her selection was announced.)

It's entirely possible education will be an issue in the debate. Both Biden and Palin have teachers in their families. But even if it's not, you can get the kids' perspective on the debate by following the Scholastic Kids Press Corps here on Twitter.

If you’d like to do your own prep work before the debate, you can read up on Palin’s views on evolution vs. creationism and her record on special education funding in Alaska.

Regarding Joe Biden, read about his views on NCLB, merit pay, prekindergarten, and his education plan when he was running for president.


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