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Joe Biden: Cool to Merit Pay, Warm to Pre-K


During his short-lived campaign for president, Democrat Joe Biden said education would be his top domestic priority.

But it's clear that Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois didn't pick Biden as his vice-presidential pick because of domestic issues, but because of his foreign relations credentials.

So as David Hoff and I begin our coverage of the convention here in Denver, we're not expecting Biden's speech from the podium of the Pepsi Center on Wednesday night to be a showstopper on education reform.

However, it's worth remembering what Biden said on education issues while he campaigned for the No. 1 job.

On the issue of merit pay for teachers--something Obama is tentatively embracing--Biden won't cause the teachers' unions too much angst because in this debate during the primaries, he said teachers should be rewarded for their own performance outside of the classroom, such as if they obtain advanced degrees. (His wife, Jill, by the way, is in the field of teaching and last I checked was a community college instructor.) He said, according to the transcript:

An excellent teacher should be judged by whether or not that teacher, outside of the classroom, improves themselves and their teaching skills. My wife got two master's degrees and a doctorate degree. That's merit pay.

His education plan was a $30 billion, five-year plan that focused on giving kids 16 years of quality schooling, from two years of prekindergarten to two years of affordable college.

By Michele McNeil


I think it is wonderful when teachers are able to "better" themselves by earning higher levels of degrees. However, it has been my experience that teachers have a tendency to focus on the "out of classroom" rewards, the end justifies the means. We all know that the higher level of education the more likely their pay increases at the local level. Therefore, it is feasible to understand that teachers likely prioritize their personal and home life and their duties and obligations to children who may or may not want to learn. We all come to accept that if a child does not learn the blame is placed on the child or the parent.
Nobody stops to think about what the aspirations or tasks the teacher is taking on in his or her spare time.

Kathy's analysis would seem to suggest that a teacher who knows more is a lousier teacher. Is that plausible?

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